GFB a key presence at Sunbelt Ag Expo
By Jennifer Whittaker and Jay Stone
Whether it involved farm practices, hardware, software, footwear, headgear or food, the 2022 Sunbelt Agricultural Expo was there to make sure its visitors had access to the latest, and Georgia Farm Bureau, located just inside the front gate in the Georgia Agriculture Building, was front and center Oct. 18-20 in Moultrie.
GFB welcomed tens of thousands of Expo patrons from the Southeast and beyond with open arms, with free peanuts, GFB swag and information about the state’s largest general farm organization, including its I Farm. I Vote. campaign.
One of GFB’s own, 8th District Director Scotty Raines, was honored as the Swisher Sweets Sunbelt Expo Georgia Farmer of the Year during the Willie B. Withers Sunbelt Luncheon, where state winners from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia were introduced. Virginia’s Robert Saunders, a horticulture and fruit producer from Piney River in the western portion of the state, was named Southeastern Farmer of the Year.
GFB President Tom McCall competed in the Sunbelt Milking Contest against Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell and American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. Duvall, a former dairyman, won the event and McCall finished second.
GFB also sponsored the 2nd Annual Advocacy in Action contest to prepare the next generation of ag advocates.
College and high school students competing in the event, held Oct. 19, experienced what it’s like to be a lobbyist as they sought support for ag legislation.
Morgan County High School (MCHS) FFA prevailed over Crisp County High School FFA and Villa Rica FFA from Carroll County for top honors in the high school division of the contest. The UGA College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences team beat Auburn and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in the collegiate division.
As they traveled the Expo grounds meeting with Georgia Rep. Sam Watson, Georgia Peanut Commission Executive Director Don Koehler and Georgia Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Dale Sandlin, all teams pitched legislation that would permanently increase the amount trucks hauling ag goods can carry from the current 80,000 lbs. (plus a 5% variance) to 95,000 lbs. In the past two years Gov. Brian Kemp has issued multiple executive orders granting this increase on a temporary basis to ease supply chain issues.
Each team was paired with an ag policy professional who lobbies for Georgia agriculture to give the contestants pointers as they delivered their pitches. GFB appreciates Nathan Humphrey of the National Federation of Independent Small Business, Hunter McBrayer with Alabama Farmers Federation and Jake Tench with the Georgia Agribusiness Council for serving as team coaches along with GFB policy staffers Jeffrey Harvey, Alex Bradford and Jake Matthews.
The top three high school teams were selected from 15 high school teams that entered. ABAC, Auburn and UGA were the only college teams to enter. All teams that entered the first round of competition were asked to submit a 2-3 minute video discussing the importance of tax exemptions for farms and agribusinesses.
The MCHS FFA team, consisting of Jalyn Fish, Sydney Fish and Karoline Norton, advised by Rachel Kinsaul, won $1,000. The CCHS FFA team comprised of Maelee Dean, Ryan Kelly and Abigail Kendrick, advised by Jesse Kelly, won $800 as the 2nd place winners. Villa Rica FFA’s team of Brody Blair, Chesnee Cartwright and Kalaya Willliams, advised by Bennett Jacobs, won the 3rd place prize of $600. Humphrey coached the MCHS team. Matthews coached the CCHS team. Bradford coached the Villa Rica team.
UGA team members Kaelyn Morgan, Benjamin Easter and Sydney Lamberth, advised by Drs. Jessica Holt and Abigail Borron of the CAES Agricultural, Leadership, Education & Communication Department, won the $1,000 1st place collegiate prize. The 2nd place prize of $800 went to the Auburn team comprised of Kade Griffith, Abigail Lane and Hunter Watkins, advised by Dr. Kim Mullenix. ABAC team members Maddie Anne Davis, Nate McKinney and Colton Peacock, advised by Greta Collins, won the $600 3rd place prize. Harvey coached the UGA team. McBrayer coached Auburn, and Tench coached ABAC.
Arkansas made its second appearance as the Sunbelt Spotlight State. Part of the state’s exhibit was Arkansas Farm Bureau's AgTech Training Lab, which has heavy equipment simulators that are used to train FFA students across the state. Inside the Spotlight State Building, Arkansas shared its agriculture and tourism. The state is the nation’s largest producer of rice, second in turkey production and third in broilers and cotton. At the Withers lunch, Arkansas Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Cynthia Edwards gave away a genuine Arkansas diamond from the United States’ only producing diamond mine to one lucky attendee.
During the Withers Lunch, Sunbelt Executive Director Chip Blaylock presented Gary Black with a plaque in appreciation for Black’s efforts to support the state’s agriculture during his three terms as commissioner of agriculture.