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Georgia committees to explore forest innovation, farmland preservation, tree safety

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(The Center Square) — Several Georgia study committees will explore various agricultural issues facing the Peach State, including the potential impact of sustainable aviation fuel.

The Senate Advancing Forest Innovation in Georgia Study Committee, created by Senate Resolution 786, will examine how public policy can encourage continued investment in facilities that create sustainable manufacturing components, practices, energy sources and other high-demand products derived from Georgia’s forest products.

“As Georgia continues to invest in sustainable energy production, this committee will explore how we can leverage our agriculture industry to stimulate economic growth in communities across our state,” President Pro Tempore John F. Kennedy, R-Macon, the committee’s chair, said in a statement. “With Georgia being home to the world’s busiest airport, and agriculture being our state’s number one industry, the work of this committee could transform Georgia’s economy for generations.”

Sens. Russ Goodman, R-Cogdell; Larry Walker III, R-Perry; Sonya Halpern, D-Atlanta; and Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, the Senate majority leader, will also serve on the committee.

“Georgia’s 22 million acres of privately-owned, working forests and the existing forest product industry across the state is well positioned to deliver sustainable solutions that can power an emerging bioeconomy,” Andres Villegas, president & CEO of the Georgia Forestry Association, said in a statement to The Center Square. “GFA is grateful for Sen. Kennedy’s leadership in establishing the Senate Advancing Forestry Innovation Study Committee, which will provide an important opportunity to discuss how Georgia can advance the use of wood-based raw material in a variety of products – from sustainable aviation fuel and mass timber to bioplastics and lignin-based batteries.”

Separately, state Sen. Billy Hickman, R-Statesboro, will chair the Senate Study Committee on the Preservation of Georgia’s Farmlands, created by SR 470.

“With Georgia losing approximately 2.6 million acres of farmland from 1974 to 2016, including additional loss as each year passes, it’s crucial that we take decisive action,” Hickman said in a statement. “While the enactment of the Freedom to Farm Act in 2022 and the Georgia Farmland Conservation Act in 2023 have been great steps forward, our work is far from over. Our committee will evaluate farmland protection measures from other agricultural states and seek expert advice to develop additional strategies that support and preserve our farmlands for future generations.”

State Sens. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas; Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta; Jason Esteves, D-Atlanta; Russ Goodman, R-Cogdell; Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson; and Sam Watson, R-Moultrie, will also serve on the committee.

In the House, Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, appointed members of the House Study Committee on Safety and Consumer Protection in the Tree Care Industry, established by House Resolution 473.

“Currently, Georgia lacks licensing and registration requirements for tree care providers,” state Rep. Victor Anderson, R-Cornelia, said in a statement. “The absence of standards for training, equipment use and insurance poses significant risks. With a fatality rate nearly 30 times higher than the national average for tree trimmers, this study is urgently needed.”

Anderson will chair the committee. Burns also appointed state Reps. Marvin Lim, D-Norcross; David Huddleston, R-Roopville; Jordan Ridley, R-Woodstock; and Bill Yearta, R-Sylvester, to the committee.

Burns also appointed state Reps. Steven Meeks, R-Screven; Robert Dickey, R-Musella; Joe Campbell, R-Camilla; Chas Cannon, R-Moultrie; Patty Stinson, D-Butler; Rob Leverett, R-Elberton; and Beth Camp, R-Concord, to the House Study Committee on The Exchange, Storage, and Coverage of Agricultural Products, Grain, and Livestock. Meeks will chair the committee, established by House Resolution 1166.