By Clint Thompson
The sustainability of Georgia’s No. 1 industry continues to be threatened by various factors; maybe none more so than the high input costs. It was a topic discussed by the state’s legislative and farming leaders during the University of Georgia Ag Forecast meeting last Friday.
“We’re looking at commodity prices that were around 20, 30 years ago,” said Will Bentley, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council. “Every other cost of inputs for our farmers have gone up for every sector of Ag. AEWR (Adverse Effect Wage Rates) and H-2A, those are huge issues facing our growers. I know a lot of time has been spent on that. Unfortunately, I think if we stay too long in this question, we may all just be depressed.”
Georgia farmers have observed an almost 50% increase in AEWR in the past 12 years, including a 21% spike in the past two years. It has sparked legislative calls for transparency with how AEWR is formulated.
Bentley pivoted and focused on the positive aspects that contribute to agriculture remaining Georgia’s top industry.
“I think there are some opportunities, and I think there are good things going on in the state of Georgia. I think we always tout the No. 1 state to do business in the country and we’re the No. 1 industry in that state. It can’t be all bad,” Bentley said. “I think it’s a good story to tell, even with the huge challenges, like every day you wake up it’s the weather, labor, input costs; there’s a whole gamut of challenges that we all face in the Ag industry.”
According to UGA’s Ag Snapshots for 2024, vegetable’s farm gate value for Georgia in 2022 was $1.31 billion, as watermelon, bell pepper and cucumber production were among the top ranked in Georgia and the country. The farm gate value for fruits and nuts was $1.06 billion in 2022, an increase from $912.08 million in 2021. Blueberries, pecans and peaches are among the top ranked crops in the U.S.