Georgia is already one of the world’s top exporters of poultry, timber and nuts, like pecans and peanuts.

As Georgia farmers move into the international market, global demand, supply and weather patterns have more of an effect on the way they do business.

“We are becoming the bread basket of the world,” said University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Dean J. Scott Angle. “But to be the breadbasket of world we have to be able to get the food out of Georgia to the people who want to buy it."

“This is the right thing to do, to feed a hungry world — to feed people who need what we can produce. It is certainly a humanitarian effort, and it’s something that we have a moral obligation to do, but it’s also an economic opportunity.”

As more of the world begins to earn a middle class wage, the worldwide market for Georgia’s poultry, beef and highly sought after snacks — like pecans — is growing. Economists discussed Georgia’s growing export strength at a series of Georgia agricultural forecast meetings held over the past week in locations across the state.

They believe tapping these new markets is the key to growing Georgia agriculture, which is already the largest industry in the state and in two-thirds of Georgia’s 159 counties.

Georgia’s agricultural exports have grown from $1.15 billion in 2006 to close $3 billion in 2012. Right now 39 percent of the freight being shipped out of the Port of Savannah is agricultural and wood products.

One in three acres planted in the U.S. is grown for the international market. The relatively weak dollar will also help fuel exports throughout 2013.

While agriculture’s long-term future may be dictated by growing global markets, the 2013 growing season in Georgia depends on whether the Midwest breaks free from the drought that ravaged its croplands last year.

“You don’t need an economist this year to tell you what will happen. You just need someone who can tell you whether or not it’s going to rain,” said Curt Lacy, a CAES Extension economist.

Grains

With grain stocks dwindling because of the 2012 drought, prices for corn, wheat and soybeans are up. While Georgia farmers aren’t known as large grain producers, they will be taking advantage of these prices.

Rising prices for poultry and beef should ease the increase in feed prices for animal producers, while row crop producers should benefit directly from increased grain prices.