Agriculture secretary hears from local farmers about current concerns

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was in Tifton on Friday for a listening session on agriculture and rural prosperity. / Mary Green

Local farmers had the ear of Agriculture Secretary and former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue on Friday, and they let him know about the challenges they're currently facing.

Perdue was in Tifton in the morning for a listening session on agriculture and rural prosperity.

A few farmers said one of their biggest problems both now and for the future is attracting and keeping young people in agriculture. They said these young farmers don't always have the time and money to invest in crops that may take years to become profitable, like citrus, a growing crop in Georgia.

Perdue recommended finding new ideas and thinking, like farm incubators, to solve this.

“We need innovative ideas and crops that I think can help," he said. "We think in Georgia of the Vidalia onion industry that began, the blueberry industry in Southeast Georgia. We’ve got other people talking about growing hops and citrus and those kind of things."

A few others also mentioned rural broadband internet access as a major roadblock to developing rural areas and attracting people both in and outside of agriculture to these regions.

Perdue said that's one of the major issues he will soon bring up to President Donald Trump.

The secretary then met with a packed house for a luncheon hosted by the Georgia Farm Bureau and attended by more farmers, people in the agriculture industry and local and state leaders.

In his address, he discussed how he believes the current goals of the Trump administration, including trade and tax reform, will benefit farmers, and he also told them about his recent RV tour throughout the Midwest to talk with farmers.

Perdue said having opportunities to meet firsthand with people in agriculture is crucial for his job.

“We’ve come to hear," he said. "Obviously, we pick up ideas wherever we go. We’ve been throughout the Midwest and the West, and we’re back here in my favorite home state of Georgia to hear from local people.”

The Department of Agriculture is looking for new ideas to promote rural prosperity. To send them your feedback, click here.

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