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Georgia agriculture experiencing exciting times, commissioner says

POSTED: November 21, 2013 9:51 p.m.

The Peach State is producing far more blueberries than peaches, said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.

Black spoke Thursday in Gainesville at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce board of directors meeting. The commissioner gave an overview on the agriculture in the state and said this was an exciting time in the industry and for Georgia. He also said Gainesville was an important part of poultry exports to other countries from the Savannah port.

Blueberries are a $250 million industry in the state, and Georgia is close to leading the nation in production, Black said. Georgia needs packing plants so growers don’t have to send the fruit to other states, such as Michigan. That will create and keep jobs in the state, he said.

“I think the real selling point on that part of the story is we wouldn’t have been able to do that without research from the University of Georgia,” Black said. “We had to develop and breed our own plant varieties that would work well in Georgia.”

The investment taxpayers made in the development of that crop about 25 years ago is bearing fruit today and will benefit the next generation. Black said it had “catapulted” over peach production.

“We’ve coined the phrase ‘Peach State,’” he said. “Those types of competitions between commodities and state recognition, I try to stay out of.”

Gainesville still lays claim to the title of “Poultry Capital of the World” and contributes to the amount of chickens sailing out of Savannah. Black said 40 percent of the poultry exported from the U.S. leaves from the South Georgia port, and half of those exports are Georgia chickens.

“That’s just a huge, huge number,” Black said.

The U.S. is second in the world for poultry exports; Brazil is first. Chickens from Georgia go to places such as China and West Africa. Black said he doesn’t see a ceiling in the poultry business anytime soon.

Rounding out his state overview, Black said the state has had an excellent cotton crop this year and a healthy peanut harvest. Georgia also has just finished harvesting its third crop of olives, which are selling for premium price.

“It’s pretty cool to be talking about some of the new things like that,” he said.

Black said it was an ideal time for Georgians in agriculture because of the state’s quality universities, one of the finest ports, good transportation infrastructure and a business-friendly environment. One big need however, is the development of a strong workforce and investment in building the next generation of agricultural leaders.

“A great way to impact Hall County and the future of agriculture is to continue to invest in those young people,” he said.


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