Sept. 21: Special election to fill vacancies
Oct. 4: Last day to register to vote in general election
Nov. 2: General election
Nov. 30: General election runoff, if needed.
Sustainable agriculture groups have seized on the opportunity of the first open agriculture commissioner seat in more than 40 years.
Georgia Organics and Emory University on Thursday will hold what they are calling Georgia’s first sustainable agriculture debate.
They say the three men seeking to be Georgia’s second agriculture commissioner in more than 40 years have agreed to participate in front of a packed house at Emory University School of Law’s Tull Auditorium.
The debate, says Georgia Organics Communications Director Michael Wall, is an attempt at bringing sustainable agriculture issues to the forefront of Georgia’s agricultural discussion as the state makes its first major change in leadership since Tommy Irvin took the seat in the 1960s.
Some of those issues include making more food grown in Georgia available to Georgians, proliferating organic agriculture and farm-to-school programs as well as ensuring the availability of clean water, Wall said.
“We wanted to fill up an auditorium with our people so the candidates could see how big our movement was,” Wall said. “...Just showing the candidates how much interest there is in these topics will demonstrate to them that we have something to say.”
Some 600 people responded to an invitation from the Atlanta-based organization to come to Thursday’s debate, Wall said.
The response has been such that Cinnat Howett, Emory’s director of sustainability initiatives, had to hire security guards and extra custodians.
“I think that’s a really strong indicator in the level of interest in this issue of sustainable food and how important it is for the people of Georgia,” Howett said.
In Georgia, the commissioner of agriculture oversees the state’s largest industry. The state is one of the country’s largest producers of poultry and peanuts.
Three people — Republican Gary Black, Democrat J.B. Powell and Libertarian Kevin Cherry — are on November’s ballot to succeed Irvin, and the groups sponsoring the debate say the winner has a historic opportunity to promote policies that could further the cause of sustainability.
For Howett, the candidates’ decisions to participate in the debate is “an important step” toward having an agriculture commissioner focused on implementing a sustainable food system she and others have worked years to promote and develop.
“The transition from the food system that we have now to a different sort of model is not easy,” Howett said. “...What’s exciting is thinking of someone who can really address this with a fresh sort of viewpoint and start putting in place some of the things we need to see happen to sort of make that transition. ... The blueprint is available if the commissioner wants to follow that path.”