By Clint Thompson
Georgia’s newly sworn-in Commissioner of Agriculture has made it clear; his top priority is ensuring the state’s family farms remain sustainable now and into the future.
Tyler Harper, who was sworn into office on Thursday, discussed his main objectives will be in office while attending the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference last week. To no surprise they revolve around helping farmers continue to make agriculture the state’s No. 1 industry.
“I think for us it’s ensuring, investing and making sure that the family farms across this state continue to be successful. You do that by continuing to invest and build on the Georgia Grown, which has been so successful under Commissioner (Gary) Black, and you do that by ensuring that the right policies are in place and allow our family farms and producers to be successful,” Harper said.
“You also do it by telling that story to the consumer across the state that may not have a basic understanding of how important agriculture is to the state of Georgia and encouraging them to buy Georgia Grown products.”
Challenging Era for Specialty Crops
Harper assumes office amid a challenging time for the specialty crop industry in Georgia. Labor costs are spiraling out of control. Other input expenses remain high heading into the spring season. Also, Harper takes over following a recent freeze event that devastated vegetable crops.
“There’s a lot of issues that they’re facing, from labor to increased costs, among other things. We’ve got to work every day to ensure that they have the resources, tools and labor force they need to get the product to the shelf,” Harper said. “That’s important to the consumers all across this state, because that’s what helps keep our food costs down at the grocery store. It also ensures that we have a safe, reliable food supply and that food supply chain stays intact.
“That’s part of what this conference is about for these farmers and producers and marketers and also our Extension Service with the University of Georgia and other Extension Colleges that are here. It gives us that opportunity to collaborate as an entire industry and find ways with new technology, new advancements, new opportunities and new markets to help this industry continue to thrive.”