Published on 10/16/08

Ga. Gov: Agriculture can brace economic recovery

By Brad Haire
University of Georgia

Agriculture remains an economic “bright spot” that could help rally the country out of what is now a dismal financial situation, said Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue at the 31st Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Ga., Oct. 14.

“I believe that farmers, producers and small-business people and people that make goods will be the foundation rock of a resurgence of the United States of America economy for the future, and you all will lead the way I’m persuaded,” Perdue told a lunch crowd of farmers, politicians, agricultural experts and policymakers.

“Our economy for agriculture is as strong today as it has ever been in the history of American agriculture,” said Mark Keenum, U.S. undersecretary of agriculture for farm and foreign agriculture service. “Overall, the balance sheet for American agriculture is extremely strong.”

Cash income for agriculture this year will be $313 billion, a record high, he said. Net farm income for the year will be $96 billion, $9 billion more than last year and a new record.

The world is demanding U.S. agricultural products, he said. Agriculture exports this year will total $114 billion, $32 billion more than last year and another record high.

“The outlook next year for agriculture exports is just as strong,” he said.

Though the numbers look good, he said, farmers face record high input costs, tightening cash flow and a recent downturn in commodity markets. “The risks are there and they are real.”

The Expo annually draws more than 100,000 visitors to the south Georgia town. This year, they saw 1,210 exhibits on everything agriculture and beyond.

At the University of Georgia building, Expo visitors saw firsthand water conservation research and programs conducted by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. They also learned about simple ways they can conserve water. CAES experts at other Expo locations conducted seminars and showcased their work with peanuts, cotton, corn, vegetables and livestock.

Students learned about in-demand careers that CAES can train them for.

“Our college’s relationship with the Sunbelt Expo – America’s leading agricultural exposition – continues to be a strong one. It’s an excellent opportunity for our faculty and staff to showcase their work and its impact on the state,” said J. Scott Angle, CAES dean and director. “Our Expo committee works hard throughout the year to help our college put its best face on at our permanent building on the Expo grounds, and we’ve been able to tell our story to the thousands of people who have visited us here over the past three days.”

Every year, 10 Southeastern states each send a farmer to compete for the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year. It went to Arkansas farmer Brian Kirksey this year. Georgia’s nominee was Wayne McKinnon from Douglas. Kentucky was the official Expo spotlight state.

Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.