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National Agriculture Week shows farmers' contributions

Georgia farmers not only grow our food and clothes but they also make a significant contribution to the state's economy. To celebrate the industry, Gov. Sonny Perdue has designated March 14-20 as Georgia Agriculture Week and has designated March 16 as Georgia Ag Awareness Day. Georgia's weeklong celebration coincides with National Agriculture Week. National Agriculture Day is March 20.

The most recent statistics show that in 2008, Georgia agriculture had a total economic impact of $65 billion on the state economy and created more than 351,000 jobs, according to the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development (CAED). Food and fiber production and related businesses represent the largest or second largest segment of all goods and services produced in two-thirds of Georgia's counties. One in seven Georgians works in agriculture, forestry or agriculture-related fields.

"Without farmers, Georgia can't grow! Agriculture not only feeds and clothes the citizens of Georgia, but it also provides jobs, which is very important in our current economic situation," J. Robert Farr, McDuffie County Farm Bureau president, said. "Nationally, agriculture is one of the few U.S. industries with a positive trade balance, meaning we export more food and agricultural products than we import. This gives us national security because it means we don't have to depend on other countries to feed us."

Gov. Perdue and his Agricultural Advisory Committee will host a celebration March 16 at the Georgia Freight Depot in Atlanta to spotlight Georgia agriculture. Gov. Perdue will recognize the five district winners of his Agricultural Environmental Stewardship Award and announce the state winner. This award honors farmers who have adopted farming practices that protect the soil, water and air on their farms. The district winners are Early D. Barrs of Bleckley County, Stanley Corbett of Echols County, Jamie Jordan of Floyd County, Wayne McKinnon of Coffee County and Keith Nichols of Stephens County. Gov. Perdue will also announce winners of the Flavor of Georgia Food Contest, which recognizes food products made with Georgia-grown ingredients.

According to the USDA, there are almost 48,000 farms in Georgia that produce annual sales of more than $1,000 with an average farm size of 212 acres. Georgia has 10.1 million acres of farmland.

Georgia ranks first in the nation in the production of broiler chickens, peanuts, pecans, rye and spring onions according to the USDA Agricultural Statistics Service. Georgia is also a leading producer of cotton, cucumbers, snap beans, cantaloupes, sweet corn, bell peppers, blueberries, peaches, watermelons, cabbage and squash.

The top 10 agricultural commodities grown in Georgia, based on their 2008 farm gate value, are: broilers, eggs, cotton, peanuts, timber, horses, beef, dairy, greenhouse horticulture products and corn. The farm gate value of these commodities, the value of the commodities farmers sell, are collected and ranked by the UGA CAED.

"It's easy to take agriculture for granted because the shelves at our local grocery store are always full of a variety of foods," Farr said. "This week gives consumers a chance to learn where their food originates and how it is grown."

Web posted on Thursday, March 11, 2010

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