March 17, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jennifer Whittaker (478) 474-0679, ext. 5334
AGRICULTURE DAY CELEBRATES GEORGIA FARMERS
MACON, Ga. – Have you recently enjoyed a peanut butter sandwich, grilled chicken or fresh vegetables? Have you recently purchased a new pair of jeans? If so, chances are you have a Georgia farmer to thank for your food and clothes.
To celebrate the industry, Georgia’s agriculture community will gather March 22 at the Georgia Freight Depot for Georgia Agriculture Awareness Day. The event begins at 11 a.m. with exhibits, food and entertainment.
The five district winners of the Governor’s Agricultural Environmental Stewardship Award will be recognized during a program beginning at 12:30 p.m., when a state winner will be named. This award honors farmers who have adopted farming practices that protect the soil, water and air on their farms. The district winners are: Andy Futch of Gilmer County, Will Harris of Early County, Jeff Herrin of Habersham County, Cecil Stafford of Long County and Everett Williams of Morgan County.
The winners of the 2011 Flavor of Georgia Food Contest, which recognizes food products made with Georgia-grown ingredients, will also be announced during the program.
“We appreciate Gov. Deal and Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black hosting this event to honor Georgia’s farmers and recognize the contributions agriculture makes to our state, both economically and environmentally,” Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said. “Georgia farmers work hard every day of the year growing their crops and caring for their livestock. As a farmer I take pride in producing food that will feed my neighbors and in preserving greenspace Georgians can enjoy as they drive through the countryside.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are 47,400 farms in Georgia covering a total of 10.3 million acres and averaging 217 acres in size.
Georgia ranks first in the nation in the production of broiler chickens, peanuts, pecans and rye according to the USDA Agricultural Statistics Service. Georgia ranks second in production of cotton, cotton seed, fresh market cucumbers, fresh market snap beans, rye and spring onions. Georgia is also a leading producer of cantaloupes, sweet corn, bell peppers, watermelons, blueberries, peaches, squash and cabbage.
The top 10 agricultural commodities grown in Georgia, based on their 2009 farm gate value, are: broilers, cotton, eggs, timber, peanuts, horses, beef, greenhouse horticulture products, dairy and container nursery products. The farm gate value of these commodities, the value of the commodities farmers sell, are collected and ranked by the UGA CAED.
Food and fiber production and related businesses represent the largest or second largest segment of all goods and services produced in two-thirds of Georgia’s counties, a report released by the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development (CAED) shows.
The average farmer produces enough food and fiber for 155 people in the United States and abroad. This is a good thing because less land is devoted to farming than it was a generation ago and the number of farmers continues to decline. Farms that specialize in selling locally grown food directly to consumers are great assets for communities, but there is still a need for farms that efficiently produce large quantities of food to feed our growing population.
“The world’s population is expected to increase from six billion to 11 billion people by 2050, which means world food demand will almost double in the next forty years,” Duvall said. “To grow enough food, farmers will have to continue to rely on scientific advances that improve our yields and the quality of our crops and livestock. Decisions related to how food is produced need to be based on research, not misconceptions. America’s ability to grow its our own food and fiber is a matter of national security so that we never become dependant on other countries for our food.”
Despite the fact that farmers’ increased efficiency allows them to produce more food, it’s a common misconception that large corporate farms produce half of the food Americans consume. USDA statistics show non-family corporations produce only six percent of the food grown in the U.S. Family partnerships or family-owned corporations produce the remaining 94 percent of American-grown food. Farm families often form partnerships or corporations for legal and business reasons, but they’re still family farms, not factory farms. Non-family corporations only own one percent of U.S. farms.
Founded in 1937, the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general farm organization. Its volunteer members actively participate in activities that promote agriculture awareness to their non-farming neighbors.