ATLA TA -- Fearing that Georgians will soon be awash in high-priced milk from Wisconsin, California, New Mexico and Idaho, the state Senate approved a proposed constitutional amendment Thursday removing property taxes from livestock.
Supporters say Georgia is down to about 450 dairy herds, about half of what the total was a decade ago, and they are looking for ways to save the industry.
"They cannot compete with the large dairy-producing states like California and Wisconsin," said state Sen. Floyd Griffin, D-Milledgeville, who sponsored the proposed amendment.
"Every state surrounding Georgia grants relief to dairy cattle," added state Sen. Harold Ragan, D-Cairo, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "If we allow our dairy industry to leave us, we are going to get our milk from New Mexico, Idaho and Wisconsin." State Sen. Don Cheeks, D-Augusta, suggested milk being imported into Georgia costs about 40 cents more a gallon because of refrigeration and transportation costs.
"It's important we look after those who provide the necessities of life," added state Sen. Richard Marable, D-Rome, who grew up on a dairy farm.
Mr. Griffin said eliminating property taxes on dairy cows would mean about $1 million. However, his colleagues expanded the proposed amendment to include beef cattle, pigs and other livestock.
"For all farmers, this past year's been a disastrous year," said state Sen. Hugh Gillis, D-Soperton. "All the farmers in Georgia are really hurting, so I would urge you to exempt (all) livestock." The Senate passed the measure 50-2. The Georgia House is considering a similar proposal. If one wins final approval, voters will get to decide the issue at election time in November.