Tyler Harper, who has served as a Georgia State Senator since 2013, talked agriculture issues to Glennville Rotarians at their Wednesday, September 28, 2022, meeting.
He first congratulated Rotarian Dr. Robin Fowler on the awarding of the 100,000 square foot cannabis facility, one of only two in the state, for his company in Glennville, Botanical Sciences, LLC.
“Agriculture has come a long way. The year 1954 was the last year there were more mules in the fields than tractors, and now we have high-powered tractors that have GPS and air-conditioned cabs,” he said.
“Agriculture is not a job, it is a way of life, and most farmers have a passion for it. We want to keep agriculture in the forefront as our state’s number one industry, so that we can continue to work, worship, and raise our families here,” said Harper.
“Farming has its challenges, such as access to capital, especially for those starting out in farming, technology advances, water policies, and labor,” he said.
“University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Ft. Valley State are involved in some phenomenal ag innovation and precision farming. Farming is more than cows, plows, and sows. We want to encourage scientists and those involved in genetics to consider the opportunities in agriculture,” he added.
“Weather is another issue that farmers face, such as the hard freeze this past year that damaged the blueberry crop, or the lack of rain that has affected row crop production and hay,” said Harper.
Inflation also affects the farmer, in the price of fertilizer, feed, and diesel fuel, he said.
“With two-thirds of the ammonia nitrate coming from Russia, and exports now limited, we realize the need to become more self sufficient as a nation,” said Harper.
“The farmer, however, is resilient, strong, and steadfast, and will work through those challenges. That is why ag is the number one industry in Georgia and is tied to one in seven jobs,” he said.
“One of the recent advances in promoting agriculture to our students is the addition of ag education in grades first through fifth in our schools, teaching students the importance of agriculture in our society,” he said.
“The Farm to Food Bank program now in effect allows farmers to partner and contract with food banks across Georgia. At times, farmers won’t bother to harvest the crop left in the field because of low commodity prices and other factors. Often, 40 percent is left in the field and not harvested. Now, the farmers can connect with food banks who need the food for those who are food insecure,” Harper explained.
“Rural broadband is another top priority so that we have that last mile of connectivity in place. Broadband today is equitable to electrification in the 1930s. It is an investment for economic development and educational opportunities,” he said.
“We need to continue on what we do best, produce commodities, but then add value to these products. For every pair of jeans that are made from cotton, only one dollar of that $60 to $70 cost of the jeans goes to the farmer. We have seen a more than 20 percent decline in the last decade. Whereas the farmer, years ago, could reap 50 percent of the end product price, now they are seeing about an average 14 cents on the dollar,” Harper said.
“Ag is, in fact, national security, since we are less safe if we are having to depend on other countries. Ag success is our state success,” he said.
“Thomas Jefferson said, ‘Agriculture is our wisest pursuit,’ and we need to realize this for the benefit of our families, our economy, and our state,” said Harper.
While in Glennville, Harper visited Mascot Pecan Company, G&R Farms, Nature’s Choice, and Armstrong’s Cricket Farm.
About Tyler Harper
A native of Ocilla, Georgia, Harper is a seventh generation South Georgia farmer and small businessman who runs a peanut, cotton, beef cattle, and timber operation on the same land his family has farmed for over 125 years. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Engineering, and he holds an associate’s degree from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. Harper is a candidate for the Georgia Agriculture Commissioner in the November 8, 2022, election.