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• The three-day Georgia Farm Bureau convention included a trade show and commodity conferences where farmers heard updates on policy and production issues impacting Georgia’s major commodities.
GEORGIA GOVERNOR Nathan Deal keynoted a general session of the Georgia Farm Bureau annual meeting. During his presentation he discussed issues facing the state's farmers that included trade, water, labor and budget issues.
Labor reform needed
“We want to know what reform is needed and what can be done at the state level. I think it is important the state of Georgia leads the way in providing statistical data so that good decisions can be made based on that data,” Deal said. “Unless you know the problem you’re trying to solve, it is very difficult to get people to solve it. This report will be the first step in providing information to Congress to get them to reform the guest worker program so that it is fair and affordable for farmers.”
In closing, Deal voiced his commitment to being fiscally responsible and rebuilding the state’s financial reserves.
“I have asked all state agencies to submit their budgets based on two percent below what was appropriated for their use this past year,” Deal said.
“Even if our revenues continue to climb as they have this past year, my goal is to make sure we restore the rainy day fund. We cannot continue to be a state that exhausts all of our reserves. We need to build a sufficient reserve so that when truly unexpected times come we will have the ability to fall back on that rainy day fund.”
While delivering his annual address to Georgia Farm Bureau members, GFB President Zippy Duvall described the organization as a family whose members find common ground and pull together to support a position that is best for agriculture overall.
“Our grassroots members came together this fall during our policy development process to decide what policy positions will best serve all farmers and rural communities across the state,” Duvall said. “During our convention we will adopt the policy developed by our members, putting us all on common ground and giving us a playbook from which we will work in the year to come.”
Duvall voiced agriculture’s need for farm workers saying, “Skilled farm labor is a necessity, just like land, water and equipment. Without timely access to a stable work force, large segments of agriculture will grind to a halt. Farmers must have a stable work force, and we must have meaningful immigration reform. “
Duvall noted that Farm Bureau recognizes the problems associated with illegal immigration as many Farm Bureau members serve on school boards, hospital authorities and as county commissioners.
“We must get a handle on this problem, but we must be cautious. In our zeal to correct one problem we don’t need to create new ones,” Duvall said.
“We don’t need to stall the largest economic engine in this state, and we don’t need to scare off our workforce. We need a workable guest worker program for agriculture so that farmers can get the skilled workers they need to produce the crops and livestock needed by our country and around the world.”
Duvall commended Rep. Jack Kingston (R-1st Dist.) and Sen. Saxby Chambliss for introducing legislation this year that would streamline the federal guest worker program to better meet agriculture’s labor needs. Duvall also thanked Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R- Dist.3) for co-sponsoring Kingston’s bill and encouraged other members of Georgia’s Congressional delegation to support the legislation.