Georgia Department of Agriculture
Absent a constitutional amendment, a program to assess the testing of equines for equine infectious anemia cannot be established under the authority of the Georgia Agricultural Commodities Promotion Act or through statutory amendment thereto.
This responds to your memorandum dated March 20, 1995 to this office, wherein you request an opinion on whether an assessment program could be established in this state pursuant to the Georgia Agricultural Commodities Promotion Act (Act) for the purposes of equine research, promotion, and educational activities. You state in your memorandum that the equine industry desires to establish an Equine Commission to collect an assessment on each equine tested for Equine Infectious Anemia. You further state that state regulations presently require such test on an equine which changes ownership, is assembled for exhibitions, rodeos, trail rides, etc., or which moves in or out of the state.
The Act authorizes the establishment of commodity commissions for the purpose of promoting agricultural commodities, including livestock. O.C.G.A. § 2-8-1 et seq. Such promotion is carried out under authority of marketing orders and is financed through assessments on the sale of such agricultural commodities. O.C.G.A. §§ 2-8-22, -8-27.
Article VII, Sec. III, Para. II(a) of the Constitution of Georgia of 1983 provides that unless otherwise provided therein, taxes, fees, and assessments collected for state purposes must be paid into the general fund of the state treasury. With regard to assessments for the promotion of agricultural products, however, the Constitution provides an exception to the above rule. Article VII, Sec. III, Para. II(b)(1) provides, in pertinent part, that: "As authorized by
law providing for the promotion of any one or more types of agricultural products, fees, assessments, and other charges collected on the sale or processing of agricultural products need not be paid into the general fund of the state treasury." (Emphasis added.)
As indicated above, the equine industry desires to establish assessments, not on the sale of equines, but on the testing of same. Given this fact, and considering the language of the Act and the constitutional provision cited above, it is my official opinion that absent a constitutional amendment, an assessment program for equines as outlined above could not be established under authority of the Georgia Agricultural Commodities Promotion Act or through a statutory amendment thereto.
ROBERT S. BOMAR
Senior Assistant Attorney General