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Ag commissioner touts Georgia Grown
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Georgia’s commissioner of agriculture touted the reintroduction of the Georgia Grown program on Tuesday during the annual meeting of the Hall County Farm Bureau.

Gary Black told the crowd of more than 200 that the program, which helps promote farmers, agritourism and other agricultural businesses, has been successful.

“Georgia Grown is going great, and we’re expecting more things to come,” he said, while speaking at the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center. “People now will understand the integrity of a Georgia product.”

Georgia Grown allows all members to “brand your business as a quality business,” Black said.

The program has various levels of membership, but all members are given one-year usage rights of the Georgia Grown logo along with information about using the Georgia Grown brand on their products. It also connects Georgia agricultural businesses with a directory and access to business webinars.

According to the Georgia Grown website, more than 300 businesses have signed up this year, with a large number of those being small businesses looking to reach new consumers.

Another aspect of Georgia Grown is the “Feed My School for a Week” program, a collaboration between the agriculture department and the Georgia Department of Education to get locally grown products into school cafeterias. Hall County was one of the three pilot counties for the program, which is now open to all school districts via an application.

Black also spoke to the bureau members about the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s efforts on improving food safety while helping foster new businesses.

“We’re supposed to get people in business and let them stay in business,” he said. “So we changed regulation in regards to the cottage food business.”

The cottage food license allows people to make “non-potentially hazardous foods” in their home kitchens and sell them. Food such as cakes, pastries, cookies and candies are included.

To get a license, there’s “a real simple process and one simple inspection,” Black said. That new process allows for more businesses to grow, he said.

Black also talked to the crowd about the upcoming changes for agricultural sales tax exemptions.

“Starting Jan. 1 and moving forward, you will have to have a card and present it to a retailer,” he said.

The card will cost $20 and require the business owner to have a certain level of sales to be eligible.

Black said more information about the changes to exemptions will be coming soon.

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