Gov. Brian Kemp traveled to the South Georgia Farm Belt Wednesday to sign three agricultural bills, including legislation making it harder to file nuisance lawsuits against farmers.
The General Assembly passed the Freedom to Farm Act earlier this month, mostly along party lines, after minority Democrats argued it offers less protection to farmers than the current state law governing nuisance suits.
The bill gives neighbors bothered by bad smells, dust or noise emanating from a nearby farm two years to file a nuisance suit. Once that statute of limitations expired, any farm operating legally will be protected.
Kemp said protecting farming is more important than ever with war raging in Ukraine, Europe’s breadbasket.
“This legislation increases and clearly defines protection for both farmers and property owners while still addressing bad actors,” the governor said during a ceremony at the farm of House Agriculture Committee Chairman Robert Dickey, R-Musella, the bill’s chief sponsor.
The measure’s opponents said a law passed during the 1980s protects existing farmers indefinitely from nuisances that occur after a new farm begins operating nearby. But under the new law, those existing farms are only protected for two years.
The Freedom to Farm Act was endorsed by the Georgia Farm Bureau, the Georgia Agribusiness Council, the Georgia Poultry Federation and the Georgia Forestry Association.
Kemp also signed legislation expanding Georgia’s elementary agricultural education program and providing Georgia food banks access to grants through the state’s Georgia Grown Farm to Food Bank program.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.