A report from the Foreign Agricultural Service and the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council shows U.S. poultry meat exports in February increased by 15 percent in quantity and nearly 18 percent in value over the same month last year.

This signals an improvement in the world economy, but also shows the value of our ports and agriculture’s driving force to improve our economic situation.

The same report cites shipments to Mexico rose by 11 percent and to Hong Kong 10 percent. Exports to Taiwan jumped 44 percent, while shipments to South Korea surged 97 percent over last year’s total. We shipped 23 percent more poultry to Iraq and 12 percent more to Russia.

Significantly stronger shipments were sent to smaller markets such as the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, the Republic of Georgia, Canada, Haiti, Singapore, Chile, Jamaica, Ghana and Japan.

Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation, said 20 percent of the poultry produced in the U.S. is exported. Georgia poultry producers benefit from their strategic location near the Port of Savannah, the nation's leading port for exporting chicken.

Food, fiber (mostly cotton) and feed for animals also continue to escalate in value. Barring a drought or other natural disaster, this will be a record year for Georgia’s farm economy. The agrarian economy, unlike other sectors of our economy, is poised to significantly expand in Georgia and to become the economic engine to drive our future.

One hundred years ago, one farmer produced enough food to feed two of his fellow Georgians. With technology, innovation and improved practices, the average farmer today produces enough food to feed more than 300 people.

But should we expand our agrarian economy?

Less than 2 percent of Georgians now works on a farm. Yet, agriculture is the state’s largest industry. Agriculture generates $12 billion annually at the farm level. By the time these raw farm materials reach tables or homes, they contribute $69 billion to Georgia’s economy.

Agribusinesses keep our economy running and employ 13 percent of Georgia’s workforce, and it’s growing.