Robinson discusses rural issues

Published 9:20 am Friday, February 10, 2012

Crafting a practical guest farm worker program and promoting U.S. Highway 27 as a tourism corridor are two of the topics recently discussed by the Georgia Rural Development Council, said Dewey Robinson, who represents southwest Georgia on the council.

Robinson has attended two of the council’s meetings since Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him; the first meeting was held this past November in Forsyth, Ga., while the most recent meeting was Monday at the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s offices in Atlanta, Ga.

Gov. Deal serves as the council’s chairman; there are 12 appointed board members from around the state and several top state officials who serve in an ex-officio capacity.

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At the November meeting, the council outlined its priorities for the issues it wanted to work on on behalf of citizens in rural Georgia, Robinson said.

One of the top issues was agriculture, which Robinson said is vitally important to both the state as a whole and especially to southwest Georgia.

Because of the area’s status as a top producer of several crops, including tomatoes, pecans, peanuts and vegetables, an adequate supply of farm workers is necessary, Robinson said. Having enough workers to harvest the various crops during different seasons is important not only to the success of farmers, who support their local economies greatly, but also helps the goals of feeding Americans and keeping food prices low, he said.

“[Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture] Gary Black was in Washington, D.C., this week working in support of a federal guest worker program,” Robinson said. “I suggest we make it so they are given official identification; let them come to work here and pay taxes. But let them come so that the crops are not left sitting in the field.”

Robinson said the council also discussed what could be done to make U.S. Highway 27 a secondary north-south route between metropolitan Atlanta and Florida. Doing so might help reduce the traffic strain on Interstate 75 and also boost the economies of the rural communities located along U.S. 27.

“The Department of Transportation and visitors’ bureaus would have to designate and promote it as a route for travelers, but it would bring through a lot of visitors to poor areas where unemployment is high and the economy is still struggling,” he said.

The Georgia Rural Development Council’s Web site is Robinson can be reached at his business at (229) 246-6565.