Coffee and the rose of Sharon: Consumer Q's with Ga. Dept. of Agriculture

Consumer Qs
Posted at 12:41 PM, Dec 06, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-06 07:50:55-05

ATLANTA, Ga. -- Gary W. Black, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture, answers consumer questions. They are as follows:

Q: I heard that the Agricultural Certificate of Exemption (ST-A1) I have used in the past in making farm-related purchases will not be valid after the end of this year. What is replacing it?

A: The Georgia Agriculture Tax Exemption (GATE) is a new program created by Georgia HB386, a law passed by the Georgia Legislature, which offers qualified agriculture producers a sales tax exemption on agricultural equipment and production inputs. This program will replace the Agricultural Certificate of Exemption (ST-A1) form effective January 1, 2013.

Applications are available online at the Georgia Department of Agriculture website. There is a $20 fee for online applicants and a $25 fee for all applications mailed in.

HB386 specifically broadens the sales tax exemptions for agricultural inputs by including equipment parts, energy used in production of an agricultural product and other inputs which were previously not exempt. The legislation also includes a phased-in, broad-based sales tax exemption on all energy used in manufacturing.  

For more information please visit, or call 1-855-FARMTAX.


Q: Is the rose of Sharon mentioned in the Bible the same shrub we know by that name? The shrub is also known as althea.

A: The common shrub many know as rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is not the same plant mentioned in the first verse of the second chapter of the Song of Solomon (Song of Songs): “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.”

Biblical scholars do not agree which flower, or even if any particular flower, is the mysterious rose of Sharon although most concur that the original Hebrew refers to a bulbous plant. Among the leading contenders for the title are two species of red tulips, various species of crocuses, sea daffodil (Pancratium maritimum) and the polyanthus narcissus (Narcissus tazetta), a plant familiar to many Georgians at this time of year. Different varieties of polyanthus narcissus are known as paperwhites, paperwhite narcissus or Chinese sacred lily. This narcissus is commonly forced in soil or pebbles for winter blooms and given as gifts at Christmas. It can also be grown outdoors. It is appreciated for its gleaming white or white and yellow flowers and sweet fragrance.

By the way, the “lily of the valleys” referenced in the verse is not the plant we know as lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis). Scholars are still debating what flower the biblical poet had in mind. Possibilities include the hyacinth and Lilium candidum, a plant that later acquired the name “Madonna lily” due to its association with the Virgin Mary in art.


Q: Is coffee technically a type of bean? Can coffee be grown in Georgia?

A: Because the seeds of the coffee plant resemble beans, they are called “coffee beans” even though they are not related to soybeans, lima beans or any other kind of true bean. Coffee is a member of the Madder Family (Rubiacae) along with a few ornamental plants that are grown in Georgia gardens including pentas, hamelia (Hamelia patens), Georgia fevertree (Pinckneya bracteata) and the familiar and beloved gardenia. Because it is a tropical plant, coffee can only be grown as a houseplant or as a greenhouse plant. 

If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, visit their website at, write them at 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Room 128, Atlanta, GA  30334 or e-mail them at