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Skaggs: As area farmers endure drought, let’s give thanks

POSTED: January 13, 2008 5:04 a.m.

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the many blessings we have received throughout our lives.
Today, many will give thanks for their families, their country and their freedom. All of these are certainly worthy of thanksgiving.

However, given our ongoing drought I encourage you to give thanks to farmers from Georgia and other Southeastern states who, despite record-breaking drought, continue to produce a wholesome food supply.

In America today, we enjoy a safe, abundant, high quality food supply. Compared to other parts of the world, we spend a very small percentage of our income on food, only 11 percent. In many other parts of the world, the amount of household income spent on food is as high as 80 percent.

The number of Americans directly involved in production agriculture, including row and forage crops, poultry, beef, dairy, fruits and vegetables, is less than 2 percent. This group of people not only provides food and fiber for the United States, but for the entire world.

Over the last few months, the word "drought" has been seen and heard daily in local news reports, in the newspaper and on radio and television.

The drought is most often discussed in the context of our drinking water supply. And while our drinking water supply is of major importance, so is the production of food and fiber.

Area farmers have faced tremendous struggles in 2007. Farmers began the year with freezing temperatures on Easter weekend. The freeze decimated peaches, apples, grapes and many early season vegetables. While many vegetables could be replanted, perennial fruit crops such as apples and peaches were lost for the season. The freeze also slowed the growth of forage and hay crops.

Climbing energy prices have impacted all of us including farmers. While the average citizen has had to pay more at the gas pump, higher energy prices have affected several staples of agricultural production: fuel for equipment, propane and natural gas for heating poultry houses and higher nitrogen fertilizer prices.

And of course, we cannot overlook the impact of the drought on farmers and others involved in agribusiness. The drought has caused wells, creeks and farm ponds to dry up, resulting in less water for livestock. It has greatly reduced the production of many farm commodities, such as hay, fruits, vegetables, corn and small grains.

We also need to remember those who keep our community looking good: area landscape and lawn care professionals. Such businesses have also suffered tremendous losses.

Despite all these challenges, America's farmers continue to provide us with the food and fiber we need to go with our lives. As we move into the future, I am sure farmers and others involved in agribusiness will face difficult times, and I am equally sure that they will overcome these challenges just as they always have: with determination, optimism and hope for a brighter tomorrow.

As a way of saying "thank you" to area farmers and agribusiness, the Hall County Extension office and the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce are playing host to the Annual Hall County Farm City Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Chicopee Agricultural Center.

If you would like to show your appreciation to those working in agriculture, please plan to attend. You can RSVP to the Hall County Extension office.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Billy Skaggs is Hall County extension agent. He can be reached at 770-531-6988. His column appears biweekly and at gainesvilletimes.com.



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