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Ag luncheon thanks farmers

Several hundred people filled the Cloud Livestock Building at the County Fairgrounds on Friday for the annual Agriculture Appreciation Luncheon.

The luncheon, sponsored by the Bainbridge-Decatur County Chamber of Commerce and many of its member businesses, recognized all of Decatur County’s farmers and what they contribute, not only to the local community, but to others around the world, said Bo Jones of Decatur County Farm Bureau.

Not only have farmers produced a $194 million 2008 Farmgate—strengthening the local economy—they also support a way of life Decatur County citizens love, Jones said.

Jeffrey H. Dorfman, a professor of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Georgia, was the luncheon’s guest speaker and talked about the state of the U.S. economy and the impact of the recession on agriculture.

Farmer Jerry Long and his wife, Janice, were honored as the Chamber’s 2009 Ag Man and Ag Woman of the Year. The Longs have 400 head of cattle, run a 100-acre “U-Pick” produce farm and grow numerous crops, Decatur County Extension Agent Mitchell May said. Mr. Long is also involved with many farmer and rancher groups, while Mrs. Long is also a second-grade school teacher in Miller County. The Longs’ son, Justin, also helps run the farm.

Bainbridge High School senior Chad White, the son of Mark and Tammy White, received a scholarship he achieved by writing an essay on the impact of agriculture on his life, which he read Friday afternoon. White wrote in his essay that he had grown up enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of agriculture and had grown accustomed to gauging the passage of seasons by what happens on local farms.

Numerous door prizes donated by the luncheon’s sponsors were given out by Chamber of Commerce Chairman Keith Lyle and other Chamber leaders. Farmer Leland Johnson won a large barbecue smoker grill donated by Hays Liquid Transport of Camilla.

Professor: Recession is over

Although some indicators of the United States’ economic health, such as unemployment and consumer confidence, are still not where they should be, the recession that began in 2007 appears to have ended, Professor Dorfman said.

“The recession ended in Georgia back in April and May, and nationwide around May and June,” Dorfman said. “It will probably be a few more months before economists make it official.”

Dorfman said one of the reasons he and others believe the recession has ended is that sales of durable goods—defined as items that will last at least three years, such as appliances—have increased during five of the past six months. That statistic would seem to indicate Americans are willing to make major purchases again, although consumer confidence—a measure of how willing people are to spend their money—is still low, he said.

The unemployment rate in Georgia has decreased slightly and is now the same as the national rate, at 10.2 percent. Dorfman said he believes more unemployed Georgians will start to be hired, as manufacturers are starting to pick up the pace of their business, but the national unemployment rate may continue to rise for a bit longer.

Home sales are still flat, but are better than they had been when the housing market bottomed out in 2008, Dorfman said. Construction companies building more new houses than Americans needed was one of the factors that contributed to the recession, he said.

The good news is that agriculture has partially avoided some of the recession’s financial pain by investing in crops that are useful in biofuel production, such as corn and soybeans, Dorfman said. The 2008 Farm Bill and rural development initiatives in the federal government’s stimulus package may also help farmers weather the bad times until the economy makes a full recovery, he said.