Ag News

Economic impact of CAES & Georgia National Fair topics at Ag Issues Summit

by Jennifer Whittaker

Posted on Sep 27, 2023 at 15:25 PM

By Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau

Members of Georgia’s agricultural community turned out in force to attend the 2023 Joint Agriculture Committee Chairmen Ag Issues Summit held Aug. 22 at the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter. Georgia Rep. Robert Dickey and Georgia Sen. Russ Goodman, who chair the Georgia House and Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committees, hosted this annual event that gives Georgia ag leaders an update on current and emerging issues Georgia’s top economic sector is experiencing.

“We’ve got great speakers lined up for you today, but this meeting is also about getting feedback from all of you regarding the upcoming legislative session and the issues you’d like to see us address,” said Dickey, chairman of the Georgia Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee. “It’s a pleasure to serve with Russ as a chairman of one of your Georgia Agriculture Committees. The members of your House Ag Committee are committed to serving Georgia agriculture and most are attending today.”

The Georgia Senate Agriculture Committee also attended.

Summit speakers gave a preview of the upcoming Georgia National Fair and updates on Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) and the UGA College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (CAES) activities. Other topics discussed included agricultural economic and weather forecasts, fertilizer prices and the status of foreign ownership of farmland in the U.S.

“I’ve always been real passionate about agriculture and I want to say that it’s an honor to serve as your Senate Agriculture Chairman,” said Goodman, chairman of the Georgia Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee. “I grew up on a peanut farm and now I also grow blueberries, and we have the Great American Cobbler Company, so I understand firsthand a lot of the issues

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that Georgia farmers and agribusiness owners face.”

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones and House Speaker Jon Burns also addressed summit attendees. Both voiced their understanding of the importance of Georgia agriculture and pledged their support of programs that will benefit agriculture.

Georgia National Fair generates majority of Agricenter annual revenue

Georgia National Fair & Agricenter Marketing Director Maggie Lane encouraged folks to attend at least one day of the upcoming fair set for Oct. 5-15. She explained that 60-70% of the facility’s annual revenue is generated by the fair.

“Almost all of our youth livestock events are 100 percent subsidized through fair revenue. Last year the fair had an economic impact of just under $50 million on the Middle Georgia area, so it’s important that we have good attendance,” Lane said.

She said fair staff strives to make sure that the fair can be an affordable family experience by offering multiple discount days and advance discount ticket sales.

“The Georgia National Fair is all about tradition with a balance of new and different entertainment and rides,” Lane said. “There’s so much to do at the fair. I encourage you to check us out on our website and social media. Most importantly, we’d love to see you at the fair at least one day of our run.”

Lane estimates there will be about 2,000 4-H and FFA members showing livestock over the course of the 11-day event. The fair offers about 80 amusement rides and a smorgasbord of eating options with something for even the most finicky of eaters.

She said the Georgia Agricultural Exposition, which oversees the fair and Agricenter, expects to break ground on the Fairfield & TownePlace Suites Marriott Hotel that has been in the works for several years by the end of this year. 

The four-floor hotel will offer full amenities for guests staying in one of the 129-rooms including a restaurant and pool. An air-conditioned connector will join the hotel to the Miller-Murphy-Howard Building making the Agricenter a full-service convention center destination.

Harper: GDA working to control Yellow-Legged Hornets & feral hogs

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper discussed programs he has implemented at the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) since taking office in January.

One of these actions is asking Gov. Kemp to restore the department’s Law Enforcement & Emergency Management Division. Harlan Proveaux is leading the division. Harper said Proveaux is tackling drug traffickers using imported ag commodities to smuggle illegal drugs into Georgia.

Harper has appointed Jenna Saxon, who previously worked in Georgia Farm Bureau’s Policy Development Department and as a lobbyist for Georgia EMC, as his chief of staff. Kathryn Russell is GDA’s policy director.

As Georgia honeybees face the new threat of the non-native, invasive Yellow-Legged Hornet first detected in the U.S. outside of Savannah in early August, Harper said the GDA is working with the USDA Animal Protection Health Inspection Service and UGA College of Agriculture staff to identify, trap and eradicate the hornet.

“The Yellow-Legged Hornet is a ferocious predator of pollinators,” Harper said. “There are over 100 different commodities that rely on pollinators to cross fertilize crop plants and make a crop

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such as watermelons, blueberries, strawberries, corn and all the vegetables we grow in Georgia. Pollinators have about a $450 million impact on Georgia agriculture. Eradicating this hornet is an issue we’re taking seriously.”

 Harper received a round of applause when he announced the GDA is taking steps to address feral hogs.

“We’ve reinstated the feral hog task force and we’re working alongside the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Georgia Soil & Water Conservation Service to implement trapping and eradication programs. We won’t ever completely eradicate feral hogs in Georgia, but we can put a hurting on them.”

Since July 1, the GDA Food Safety Division has been working to implement regulations that will allow milk producers to get a license to sell regulated raw milk to consumers.

“We’re working to get this program off the ground,” Harper said. “We’re currently working to license those producers who want to sell raw milk to consumers legally.”

It will remain illegal for dairy producers to sell unpasteurized milk to consumers without having a license from the GDA and meeting certain production and safety standards designed to reduce the safety risks of consuming unpasteurized milk.

Members of Georgia’s dairy sector sought passage of the Georgia Raw Dairy Act in 2022 to address gaps in state law that resulted in untested, unregulated raw milk being sold and consumed by humans under a pet food label.

The new dairy act is intended to make the production and sale of unpasteurized milk as safe as possible while also providing a new market opportunity for Georgia dairies.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration and health experts recommend that pasteurized Grade A milk is safest for consumers because pasteurization kills harmful organisms responsible for diseases such as listeriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria and brucellosis, but the demand for unpasteurized milk has risen in the past decade from consumers who want milk straight from the cow.

UGA CAES Dean discusses college’s economic impact & plans for precision ag farm

UGA College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (CAES) Dean & Director Dr. Nick Place provided an update on CAES activities & research. Place said the CAES contributed $686.3 million to the $7.6 billion economic impact the entire university has on Georgia’s economy. Analysis shows that CAES Extension programs generate a $262.6 million economic impact while teaching generates $241.3 million and research generates $182.3 million.

Place thanked the representatives of ag organizations attending the summit for the contributions they have made to the college to support research for their commodities.

“We use research funding we get from Georgia ag organizations to leverage more research funding from federal sources,” Place said.

In the last year, commodity groups awarded $4,414,686 to CAES to support research. Place said CAES research expenditures increased by 31.1% from $43.7 million in fiscal year 2021 to $57.4 million in fiscal year 2022. CAES received $55.8 million in federal funds for research in 2022.

Place gave an update on the UGA Institute for Integrative Precision Agriculture (IIPA), which was established last year, and the status of the UGA Integrative Precision Agriculture Demonstration Farm planned for Perry.

Place said the IPAI is working to foster innovation with faculty across UGA’s campus and with faculty from other research institutions to develop technology solutions to address ag challenges. IIPA has hired faculty members in the past year and held an international conference in Athens in May attended by precision ag leaders from around the world. Harald Scherm and Jaime Camelio are the interim leaders of IIPA while a permanent leader is sought, Place said.

During last year’s Ag Issues Summit, Place said the CAES planned to create a farm at the Georgia National Agricenter to demonstrate the latest precision ag technology. Place said CAES is working with the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Exposition Authority that oversees the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter to establish the farm on 250 acres of the Agricenter property.

“Our goal is to make this the place to go to witness the latest and greatest in precision agriculture and technology,” Place said. “Steve Shimp [Georgia National Fair executive director] and I see this as a wonderful opportunity to expose and educate farmers to precision technology but to also get kids coming to the fairgrounds excited about agriculture as a career.”

Place said the college will hopefully be able to start work on the new farm by the end of this year.

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