Published on 09/24/14

Georgia's under the spotlight at this year's Sunbelt Expo

By Clint Thompson

Georgia will definitely be on the minds of the estimated 90,000 people that will flock to this year’s Sunbelt Ag Expo in October.

Not only is Georgia the host state for the 37th annual Sunbelt Expo in Moultrie, it’s also the 2014 Spotlight State. Georgia’s exhibit, called “Always in Season,” is housed in a newly constructed building donated by the Spotlight State committee. Spotlighting Georgia will provide Expo attendees the chance to see Georgia’s agricultural diversity and discover why it’s the state’s No. 1 industry.

“Each year the Sunbelt Ag Expo brings many new and exciting opportunities to our state, and this year is no exception,” Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said. “We’re proud that Georgia has been selected as the 2014 Spotlight State and the addition of the new Spotlight State building is certainly something to celebrate.”

Members of Georgia’s spotlight state committee — comprised of faculty and staff from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Fort Valley State University, Georgia Agribusiness Council, Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia Farm Bureau and the University of Georgia — wanted to leave a lasting legacy by constructing the new building. With funds generated by various agricultural groups around Georgia, a permanent building was constructed to house the Spotlight State exhibit. State seals on the concrete floor recognize the 10 states that make up the Sunbelt Ag Expo. The Spotlight State building will be used every year by future Spotlight States.

“We are humbled and very appreciative of the Georgia Spotlight State committee for raising the funds to build a permanent Spotlight State exhibit building at the Sunbelt Ag Expo,” Sunbelt Executive Director Chip Blalock said. “This building will allow Georgia this year, and all future Spotlight States, to exhibit in a building instead of a tent and be better protected from the elements in a much more inviting setting. We also say thanks to all of the donors who have made the dream a reality. The 10 Southeast state seals in the center of the building set the building off and give the 10 participating states the permanent recognition they so richly deserve.”

Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall helped break ground on the Spotlight State building in July.

“To put the largest industry that controls most of the economy in the state in a tent just didn’t set right with Georgia Farm Bureau,” Duvall said. “I’m proud to be part of an organization that wants to take the lead alongside the (Georgia) Department of Agriculture and all of our other friends at the University of Georgia and others, to make sure the Spotlight State has a home at the Sunbelt Expo from now on. We’re just real proud of that.”

Georgia agriculture’s farm gate value totals almost $13 billion annually. Part of Georgia’s Sunbelt exhibit this year will include a mural that spans more than 60 feet and depicts the state’s agricultural diversity. Of the more than 60 commodities Georgia farms, poultry production leads the way with a total of 33 percent of the state’s annual farm gate value. Georgia also specializes in cotton, peanuts and beef production, and leads the country in peanut production.

“Georgia has a rich history of agricultural production and we are proud to share that tradition with our neighboring states,” said Joe West, assistant dean on the UGA Tifton Campus.

This is the third year Georgia has served as the Spotlight State. It was also recognized in 1985 and 2001.

Clint Thompson is an agriculture writer based in Tifton, Georgia.

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