Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black had a simple message for the young people gathered at the meeting of the Oconee County Republic Party last week.
Agriculture offers lots of good career opportunities, Black told the Oconee County high school and middle school students.
The young people in attendance were primed for that message.
They represented the Oconee County 4-H program, North Oconee FFA, Oconee Middle School FFA and the Malcom Bridge Middle School FFA.
Black also used the opportunity to kick off his local campaign for re-election in 2018.
Where Food Comes From
Black told the 85 people gathered at the Cotton Gin on SR 15 south of Watkinsville that there is renewed interest on the part of consumers in their food.
“I’ve never seen a time where people are more interested in where their food comes from,” Black said.
People want to visit local farmers markets, he said, because they “want to come see somebody that’s real.”
Black said the state needs to “brand our products” as Georgia grown. “We’ve got to seize this opportunity.”
The marketing of the state’s agricultural products is a major part of what his Department of Agriculture does, Black said.
Needs More Staff
Black said he needs more staff in his office so “We can facilitate the marketing of products. As a matter of fact, I’ve kind of got a duty in that, a responsibility in that.”
“We’re still leading the nation in peanut production and total poultry production and pulp,” Black said. “We still lead the nation in pecan production. We’re number one in blueberry production.
“Its just crazy,” Black said. “We’re talking about billions of dollars produced on the farm. Why would we ever want to run from that? We want to run to it. It’s what brought us to the dance.”
Black said a key principle of what he called his “agriculture makes life better agenda” is providing better incentives for those who work in his department.
Black asked those present to help him in his 2018 campaign.
He was elected Commissioner as a Republican in 2010 and again in 2014 and said he wants another term.
His campaign agenda also includes an item directed at the students in the audience and at their parents.
“Georgia students must view agriculture, forestry, food processing and related industries as viable fields of study and employment,” he said.
The meeting at the Cotton Gin last Thursday evening was a replacement for the usual meeting of the Oconee County Republican Party.
Rep. Chuck Williams, who yesterday was named director of the Georgia Forestry Commission, introduced Black to the crowd.
All of Oconee County’s elected officials are Republicans, and Commissioners Chuck Horton, Mark Thomas and William “Bubber” Wilkes were in attendance. Thomas owns the Cotton Gin.
Oconee County Board of Education Chair Tom Odom and Houston Gaines, running for Georgia representative from the 117th House District, also were present. Three of Oconee County’s 13 precincts fall into the 117th.
The video of the Aug. 24 meeting is below.
Tammy Gilland, Oconee County GOP chair, presided.
Chuck Williams began his introduction of Black at 4:40.
Black began speaking at 7:55.
Students made up about a third of the 85 people in attendance.