Friday, March 5, 2010

President Adams' Budget

I along with about 100 percent of the folks in Georgia Agriculture were appalled by the budget cuts proposed for the University of Georgia. Essentially a fourth of the cuts came, disproportionately, out of the College of Agriculture.

The biggest uprising came from his suggestion to do away with 4-H and sell the camps at Rock Eagle and Jekyll Island. That is expected when you look at the number of children currently in the 4-H program and also the fact that there are many more of us who are products of 4-H.

I hope we will not lose sight of the other cuts he proposed. Eliminating half of the County Extension offices in the state would have far reaching impact and it would not be good. Margins on our farms today are as small as they have been in decades. Farmers are struggling to meet their cash flow and seldom are we able to build any equity...in fact many farmers find themselves in the unfortunate situation of farming up their equity.

Farmers need to have ready access to the results of research which will help them find opportunities to earn a profit. The County Agent is the one who can get them this information. To eliminate County Agents creates other hardships within the system. Specialists who provide the information to the County Agents and do applied research will become nothing more than area agents and they will not have the time to do the applied research which proves core research and its use on the farm. Also, last year the Peanut Commission funded local research plots with a dozen county agents in Georgia. This allows farmers to see various research trials and the results locally. I hope you get the picture on why eliminating half the County Agents in this state is a bad idea.

Let's then shift to the closing of critical research stations. Let me use Atapulgus as an example. The research station at Atapulgus has a long and sordid history. Researchers have done everything they can wrong there to build up disease, weed, nematode, and other pest pressures. Sounds terrible doesn't it? We should close it and sell it, Right???

Absolutely not! We need that facility to test the results of research findings, to do variety trials of new varieties so we can understand how they respond under the worst of conditions. Growing peanuts in a greenhouse can be pretty simple once you learn the technique. Growing peanuts with everything Mother Nature can throw at you like at Atapulgus is where the rubber hits the road.

I know we seem to be being used as a pawn in a chess game between the UGA and the Legislature but frankly agriculture in Georgia is way to important to be playing games with.

I hope this fact is not lost on the leaders of this state.