HOW TO SIGN UP
Register for the Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption online at https://forms.agr.georgia.gov/GATE/ or call 1-855-FARM-TAX.
Come Jan. 1, Georgia farmers will need to take a new step to get a sales tax exemption on feed, fertilizer and other agricultural products.
After the first of the year, farmers will need to pay $20 to $25 annually for a new Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption certificate that will make them eligible for the waiver on sales and use taxes.
Walker County Agricultural Extension Agent Norman Edwards has been trying to get the word out to farmers about the change.
"I'm just trying to make farmers aware, so they're not shocked," Edwards said. "Come January 1, a farmer goes to buy feed, fertilizer or a new tractor ... even if he's been buying stuff for 20 years, if he doesn't have that card, they're going to charge him tax."
The good news, Edwards said, is getting a card isn't difficult.
"You don't have to send any documentation in," he said.
After filling out the form online and paying $20, a farmer can "print a card out in about 10 minutes," Edwards said.
Farmers who aren't Internet savvy can apply via traditional mail, but that takes longer and costs $25.
To qualify, a farmer needs to have produced more than $2,500 worth of agricultural products in a year or has to grow a long-term product, such as pecans or timber, that could generate $2,500 in the future.
Edwards said farmers he works with aren't too concerned about the new fee.
"They don't seem too terribly upset," he said.
But they're not crazy about the prospect of having to renew it every year, he said. They wish the state required renewal only every third or fifth year.
Steve Chapman helps run Cedar Springs Farm, which raises grass-fed beef in the McLemore Cove area of Walker County. He also raises sheep and goats.
He bought some tax-exempt feed Friday and said he doesn't mind the change to the system.
"I guess they've got to pay somebody to do the bookwork," Chapman said of the new annual fee. "We'll use [the exemption] for different things at the farm."
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.