Agriculture

David Goldman / Associated Press

Farmers in Georgia have been impacted by a multitude of events in the last few years: hurricanes, stalled aid, trade policy and, on top of that, drought. 

In September, the Southeast saw record heat — with little to no rain. Now, there is lots of rain in the forecast for the coming week. On Second Thought checked in with onion farmer Aries Haygood of A&M Farms in Lyons, Georgia, to hear about the issues impacting farmers.


Grant Blankenship/ GPB

Georgia farmers who have suffered economically from Hurricane Michael or other recent weather events can begin applying for a piece of $3 billion in federal aid.

The money from what is called the WHIP plus program was authorized by President Trump back in June and is available for farmers hurt by weather as far back as Tropical Storm Cindy in 2017.

Andrea Smith / Associated Press

Georgia farmers are facing more uncertainty after China announced last week it has stopped buying U.S. agricultural products.

 

The American Farm Bureau Federation is calling for a quick end to the U.S. trade dispute with China.

 

Tripp Cofield with the Georgia Farm Bureau echoed that call. 

He said some Georgia farmers support the notion of better trading terms with China.

 

Public Domain

Georgia wants to encourage more students to seek agriculture jobs by offering new educational courses.

Some of the courses begin as early as kindergarten, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported .

The goal is to better acquaint students with one of the state's oldest industries. Georgia's agriculture industry adds about $75 billion to the economy each year and provides jobs for more than 400,000 people, the newspaper reported.

Public Domain

Last week, Mexico became the first country to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. Canada is expected to follow suit in short course.

In The United States, however, not all American lawmakers are convinced the USMCA would be a better deal than the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. Democrats have threatened to block it, and a few key Republicans are withholding support unless the administration makes some concessions on tariffs.


Kimberly Vardeman / Wikimedia Commons

From the devastation of Hurricane Michael to trade tariffs, Georgia farmers have faced months of uncertainty. After stalled disaster and tariff aid packages, American farmers are still struggling while being shuffled around the political gameboard. 

 

Mark Peele is a cotton grower and president of the South Central Georgia Gin Company. He joined On Second Thought on the line from Berrien County to talk about the outlook — and mindset — of Georgia farmers. Jeffrey Harvey, director of the Georgia Farm Bureau's Public Policy Department, also joined the conversation from GPB's studio in Macon.

 

 

Public Domain

The latest data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture showed Georgia lost more than 1,500 small and mid-size farms over the past five years. But it’s not all bad news.


Courtesy of AP Images

It takes about a decade to grow a productive pecan tree and a matter of minutes to take one down. A University of Georgia specialist estimates Hurricane Michael's 100 mph winds left 75 percent of pecan crops unharvestable in several south Georgia counties. UGA also estimates a total of $2 billion in losses to the state's agriculture industry.

Five months after the storm, many farmers are still picking up the pieces. "On Second Thought" has been following up with growers ever since the storm. Randy Hudson's family has run Hudson Pecan Company in Irwin County for more than 150 years. Rob Cohen owns Pecan Ridge Plantation in Decatur County. He's been in the family business for several decades. Cohen and Hudson gave updates on their crops as a new season begins.


Courtesy National Association of Farm Broadcasting

As 2019 begins, a true Georgia personality is embarking on a new journey: retirement. Everett Griner, 92, began his broadcasting career in 1948 and spent decades as a farm reporter and producer for Southeast AgNet. Griner recently retired on the farm and joined "On Second Thought" on the line from Moultrie, Georgia. 


UGA Extension Service

Oat crops are grown across Georgia along with other cereal grains like rye and wheat. But you won’t find them in your cereal bowl.


Grant Blankenship / GPB

Tucked away in a corner of the Pine Knoll Pecan Grove near the town of Pretoria is one of those things that Mitch Bulger says made the decades he spent living and working  here worth it.  

"I promise you,” he told me. “Stick your finger in that. It’s the coldest water.”


Public Domain

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched a new program to help farmers in the wake of a potential trade war with China.


U.S. Department of Agriculture

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue talked trade in Canada Friday. The former Georgia governor met with his Candian counterpart, Lawrence MacAulay, on Prince Edward Island. Perdue’s trip comes after President Trump imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Phillip Tutt talks about okra and collards with his neighbors. He’s lived in the same home on Macon, Georgia’s Bowden Street for close to 50 years. Most of that time he’s had a garden.

“Now for my turnips and things like that I don’t want to plant them before Labor Day,” he said. “But if I can get them in on Labor Day I’ll be happy. But collards I believe I set them out in August if I’m not mistaken.”

Over the years the rows of vegetables in his garden have thrived while the neighborhood around them has withered. There was a time when he would walk next door to share his peppers with neighbors and return with a basket of tomatoes.

Sean Powers / On Second Thought

After Thanksgiving dinner, you might still have leftovers that end up in the trash. Food waste is a big problem in landfills. The Atlanta-based group Compostwheels is trying to reuse a lot of that material by collecting it from homes and businesses, and turning it into "black gold," or as most of us know it, compost. GPB’s Sean Powers followed a Compostwheels delivery to learn how we all can play a larger role in urban agriculture.

 

 

Author Maryn McKenna: Big Chicken

Oct 2, 2017
Goldstar

Chicken is the most popular meat in America. And Georgia is the top chicken producer in the nation. Joining us is author, Maryn McKenna. Her book “Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats,” explores the role antibiotics play in transforming our food. 

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

 

Dependable sources of labor and a fresh look at international trade topped the wish list of farmers and other stakeholders when they met with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue Friday.

Perdue held a roundtable discussion in Tifton in his role as the head of President Trump’s Task Force on Rural Prosperity. It was the first such roundtable in the South.

“We’re here from the federal government and we’re here not to hurt you,” Perdue joked.

Despite a bad growing season, there were peaches for sale recently at a small stand at the Mulberry Farmer's Market in Macon, Ga. The fruit caught the eye of Linda Marlow, visiting from the West Coast.

"We're from California so we want Georgia peaches," Marlow said with a laugh.

California, by the way, produces more peaches than other state in the country. It isn't like this is a novelty for Marlow.

"Well yeah, but we expect they are going to be better here," Marlow said.

Dozens of Democrats joined Republicans in the Senate to confirm former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as the next secretary of agriculture.

The vote was 87-11. Perdue's cousin, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., voted "present" and presided over the vote.

Sonny Perdue grew up on a farm in central Georgia and has owned several agriculture companies. He is not associated with the food company Perdue or the poultry producer Perdue Farms.

NPR's Geoff Bennett reports for our Newscast unit:

At the public library in the rural Morgan County town of Brush, Colo., Marissa Velazquez welcomes her students to class. It's a sunny Saturday morning, and the day marks the halfway point in Velazquez's class, a 10-week crash course on American history, civics and English.

Nearly all of the students work in either meatpacking or dairying. Everyone in it has the same goal: become an American citizen. In two hours, Velazquez runs through voting rights, the legislative process and some grammar tips.

Pop quiz: When do we celebrate the venerable American holiday of Flag Day?

Grant Blankenship / GPB

What are you going to do when you grow up? We ask our kids that all the time.

To answer that, first you have to know what jobs are even out there. That’s why students in Cherilyn Keily’s class at Bonaire Middle School have been raising chickens.

Evan Vucci / The Associated Press

A high priority for President Donald Trump is getting his cabinet nominees approved by the U.S. Senate. Late last week, he named his one remaining choice: former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue as secretary of agriculture.

President-elect Donald Trump is expected to name former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as his nominee for agriculture secretary, according to a transition official and a source close to the process.

This is the last open Cabinet position, although Trump has yet to name a Council of Economic Advisors chair, which is a Cabinet-level position.

The process of selecting an agriculture secretary turned into a marathon, as Trump interviewed many candidates.

Perdue was a favorite among major farmers' groups and leaders in the Republican establishment.

It took years of heated debate, but the federal government has finally decided just how much living space an organic chicken should have.

It's part of a new set of rules that cover many aspects of animal welfare in the organic food industry. But the biggest impact of the rule will be felt in the organic egg industry.

Stefano Brega / flickr

Pigs are a huge part of Georgia’s economy. They can also cause a lot of problems. A University of Georgia report last year says feral swine caused nearly $99 million in crop damage and $51 million in non-crop damage in 2014. But that doesn’t mean we should hate these animals.

At first glance, food policy seems to be an afterthought in the Trump administration. The campaign saw few debates about food or farming. And the president-elect hasn't yet nominated someone to head the Department of Agriculture or the Food and Drug Administration.

Peanut Harvest Hurt By Hot, Dry Summer

Oct 20, 2016

Rodney Dawson stood in his peanut field off of Route One-Twelve in Hawkinsville. In a normal year, the vines would be knee-high and the foliage would fully cover the dirt.  But Dawson says this year is not normal. In fact, it’s one of the worst in his 30-plus years of growing peanuts.

“Right here we see distressed plants,” said Rodney Dawson, who is also a board member for the Georgia Peanut Commission. “There (is) a lot of yellow tint to them, where they should be lush and green.”

Sean Powers / On Second Thought

More than half a million veterans wait at least a month for appointments at the VA. That's 70,000 more veterans than last year, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. As GPB's Sean Powers reports, there's a new push in Georgia to improve veteran care by helping them connect with their roots on the farm.

maryleilalofts.com

Developments are underway to renovate a 19th century cotton mill into a craft brewery and loft apartments in Greensboro, Georgia. But 11 years ago, developer Nathan McGarity made a surprising discovery in the mill’s rafters. He discovered a trove of old letters and pictures that revealed a little known piece of US history. 

We speak with Nathan and Steven Brown, archivist emeritus at the University of Georgia's Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library, about what they found

Nancy Heaslip / New York Department of Environmental Conservation

As natural predators of insects, bats are extremely important to agriculture. Researchers estimate their value to farmers in the United States is roughly $23 billion per year. But these are tough times for bats.

Pages