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What Sen. Jon Ossoff sees for future of Georgia's poultry industry
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U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, center, flanked by Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, right, and Gainesville Mayor Sam Couvillon Tuesday, June 28, 2022, at the Georgia Poultry Lab during a press conference. - photo by Scott Rogers

Sen. Jon Ossoff visited Gainesville’s poultry lab Tuesday, June 28, with local business leaders and city officials to discuss his new plan to bolster Georgia’s poultry industry. 

Georgia is the nation’s leader in poultry production, and Gainesville is the state’s biggest hub, with chicken plants comprising some of Hall County’s top employers. 

Ossoff announced a plan Tuesday to provide more funding for University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University poultry science programs, which could create a stronger future workforce for the industry. His push includes funding for repairs and renovations of poultry research centers in Athens and Tifton as well. 

“These institutions work with our poultry farmers … with the entire supply chain to make Georgia the national leader in poultry production, and a leader in poultry that feeds the entire world,” Ossoff said at a press conference at the Georgia Poultry Laboratory. 

The push includes allowing FVSU to upgrade its poultry science program from a minor to a major and collaborate with UGA. 

“One thing I’ve heard consistently is concern about access to qualified workers and managers who can help to run the houses and plants,” Ossoff said. “This is the beginning of an effort, but it’s a worthwhile effort, and I’ll do everything I can to try to ensure its success.”

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U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff talks with visitors Tuesday, June 28, 2022, at the Georgia Poultry Lab following Ossoff's press conference. - photo by Scott Rogers

Mayor Sam Couvillon, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, Abit Massey, the president emeritus of the Georgia Poultry Federation, Phil Sutton, vice president of Kubota and other local leaders joined Ossoff on the tour. Drew Echols, who runs Jaemor Farms in East Hall, gave Ossoff a box of peaches before he left. 

“He was very on point with his knowledge of farming in Georgia,” Couvillon said. “We should all feel comfortable with him — and that’s coming from a Republican. I didn’t vote for him, but I’m very impressed with him.”

Ossoff’s poultry industry plan includes about $7.3 million between the two schools for a joint poultry science program, $13.15 million for the U.S. National Poultry Research Center in Athens, $2.2 million for the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory in Athens and $3.1 million for new equipment at UGA’s veterinary diagnostics laboratories in both Athens and Tifton, according to a press release from Ossoff. 

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U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, right, speaks with Gainesville Mayor Sam Couvillon Tuesday, June 28, 2022, at the Georgia Poultry Lab following Ossoff's press conference. - photo by Scott Rogers

When the U.S. Senate passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill last fall, Gainesville was designated to get nearly $14 million for public transit. One plan for the funding proposed making the county’s ridesharing service WeGo fully electric over several years, but Couvillon indicated that may not be in the cards. 

An amount that large at once could become a burden for the city, Couvillon said. 

“I’m going to reach out to him and hopefully get somewhere where we can make that a little more palatable for what our needs in transportation and infrastructure are here,” he said.

The WeGo buses were paid for in late 2020 with federal CARES Act money. Because the city bought the buses so recently, they may not need to revamp the system yet, Couvillon said. 

“If we could get sidewalks in some places — heck give us half a million dollars,” he said. “Let’s go, put some sidewalks in some much needed places. That to me is good infrastructure.”