Harper: Farmers taking on challenges, what's new at GDA
Posted on Aug 22, 2023 at 20:00 PM
By Jay Stone, Georgia Farm Bureau
Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper says that American agriculture is under attack both on the policy front and in international criminal enterprises.
Speaking at the Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) Commodity Conference on Aug. 10 in Athens, Harper praised GFB while noting changes and challenges at the Georgia Department of Agriculture and a new exhibit at the fair.
“What’s happening to some of our fellow farmers and ranchers across the world, they're being told that they can't have so many cattle on so many acres of land, they're told that they can't do other things when it comes to agricultural production, those are the same things that are starting to make their way here,” Harper said, noting the imposition of limits on pesticides, medications and water, to name a few. “The fight we have in this industry right now, that’s a lot of what it's over.”
Harper discussed the restoration of the GDA Law Enforcement & Emergency Management Division. The division, under the direction of Harlan Proveaux, has already begun tackling drug trafficking tactics where illegal drugs are hidden within imported shipments of agricultural commodities.
“When you're using produce as cover loads for illegal items, and you sell that produce at the farmer's market below cost, it undercuts your ability as a producer to compete,” Harper said. “I can promise you, the folks that are delivering that produce, they don’t care what price they get at the market because it’s not about the produce for them.”
Meanwhile, the GDA is working to get fully staffed. Harper said at the time of the GFB Commodity Conference, the department had approximately 60 job openings, some of which have been open for more than a year.
“If you know anybody that would like to come work for the Department of Agriculture, we're hiring,” he said. “The last thing that I want to do as commissioner is tell a business that I can't issue you a license because I don't have an inspector to send you. And believe it or not, I've had that. We've had to have that conversation in the last six months with businesses across the state, with individuals that want to expand their operation. And they may need an inspector instead of once a week, they may need somebody two or three times a week. Right now, where we are, unfortunately, there's some of that that I just can't do.”
With the Georgia National Fair just weeks away, Harper said a new exhibit in the Georgia Grown Building will show a Georgia commodity from its beginning, through its development and harvest, all the way to delivery to consumers. This year, the featured commodity will be cotton.
He also pointed out the GDA is partnering with the Atlanta Braves on a sponsorship deal to take agriculture’s story to audiences who might not otherwise hear it.