Viewpoint: Gary Black, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture


Gary W. Black Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture

Suburban civic clubs. Yes, speaking to community leaders at Roswell Rotary, Augusta Exchange or McDonough Kiwanis is one of the most rewarding experiences of serving in this role. People listen intently as they learn about the breadth of the Department’s responsibilities. “Wow, I didn’t know you did that,” is a response I’ve heard hundreds of times. Some of our citizens still hesitantly on occasion ask, “what do you do?” Many also ask “why?” Questions like this cause us to check or adjust our message from time to time to ensure that we properly connect with the taxpayers who are footing the bill.

Answering “why” is fundamental. Coach Vince Lombardi of Packer lore began every football camp, an assemblage of rookies, veterans and future hall of famers, the same way. With ball in hand he convened camp by saying “gentlemen, this is a football.” His commitment to fundamental teaching yielded quite a bit of success too.

So, we have been searching for a new fundamental answer to “why agriculture, or why is there such a department?” The answer, I believe, is as simple and important as Lombardi’s: Agriculture Makes Life Better for Every Georgian, Every Day.

Georgia farmers make life better for all of us. Producers undergird the social and economic fabric of over two-thirds of Georgia’s communities. They are stewards of the soil and water, the producers of $13.75 billion of food and fiber that feed, clothe, and shelter all of us.

Here at the Department, we make life better for our citizens too. Day after day, our employees are vigilant in upholding responsibilities in a myriad of regulatory areas that have profound effects on the daily lives of Georgians. When scales and pumps are accurate, fuel is clean, food is safe and seed quality is good, Georgians can know that hard-working members of our team have done their jobs correctly. As we build confidence in the system, some of life’s challenges improve. That is our goal.

Over the next five years, we will pursue several principles to help us better address the most pressing “what’s” and “why’s” of Georgia agriculture.

Just as Georgia has been the No. 1 place in America for business for the past five years, Georgia must also commit to be the No. 1 place in America where local food systems flourish. From restaurants to schools, Georgia Grown must be the focus. Local pride builds a healthy business and social climate for the next generation.

Domestically (U.S.) and across the globe, we must commit to securing stronger brand presence and market share for Georgia Grown commodities and products. Imagine, Vidalia Onion Day at Fenway when the Red Sox take on the Yankees. Individually, some of our commodity groups have had success abroad. Peanut, pecan, poultry, cotton, and forest product producers rely heavily on world trade. But across the sphere, we can take advantage of many more opportunities in Hong Kong, Johannesburg and Dublin with specific Georgia Grown trade missions.

The challenges related to animal disease prevention, detection and response are enormous. Georgia must commit to be the national leader in these disciplines. We are very good. From collaborative avian influenza training with the poultry industry to fuel supply logistics with agencies responsible for Homeland Security, our professionals will never settle for anything less than the best.

Agriculture Makes Life Better, for Every Georgian, Every Day. It is a big responsibility. The technologically savvy, stewardship-minded farmers and ranchers in all 159 counties of Georgia take this responsibility to heart. Your Georgia Department of Agriculture does too.

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