Local speakers to bring international trade home at UGA’s 2013 Ag Forecast

Published 4:59 am Friday, December 21, 2012

By Merritt Melancon
University of Georgia 

For farmers, the decision to start exporting their products can be daunting or even down right confusing.

UGA’s 2013 Farm to Port Ag Forecast economic outlook series will feature local producers and business people who will share how they broke into the export market and the benefits they’ve seen since making the leap.

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“As we continue to move toward a global economy, there are new opportunity overseas and across our boarders that can provide a positive economic impact on Georgia’s farmers,” said Kent Wolfe, executive director of the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, which is helping to organize the 2013 Ag Forecast. “However, being aware of these opportunities and the issues associated with accessing foreign markets can be an overwhelming task.

“Hopefully, our local speakers will be able to share some insight and their experience in exporting Georgia products hopefully paving the way for others to take advantage of existing and emerging foreign markets.”

UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences coordinates the seminars in conjunction with Georgia Farm Bureau and the Georgia Department of Agriculture. The Ag Forecast seminars were made possible through an endowment funded by Georgia Farm Bureau. This is the seventh year the program has been offered.

The two-hour programs provide lunch or breakfast and bring together agricultural economists and economic development experts from around the state to give producers and business owners a preview of what they can expect from the market in the coming year.

The seminar series will be held January in Athens, Rome, Macon, Tifton, Bainbridge and Lyons. Georgia Department of Economic Development Director of International Trade Kathe Falls will deliver the keynote, and a local speaker will address the specific challenges and benefits of exporting from their region of Georgia.

Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council and president of the International Poultry Council, will speak at the Jan. 25 Ag Forecast at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education in Athens.

Georgia farmers are the largest producers of poultry in the U.S., turning out about 1.3 million birds a year. A growing number of those are for the export market, with farmers breaking records for exports in 2011 and on track to break records in 2012, according to Toby Moore, vice president of communications for the council.

The Poultry and Egg Export Council represents 220 poultry processing and trading companies across the United States. The council collaborates with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service to promote U.S. poultry and egg products in 13 foreign countries.

“As the nation’s leading poultry and egg producer, no state has benefited more from exports than Georgia,” Sumner said. “Since 1990, exports of Georgia poultry have grown from about $93 million to an estimated $790 million in 2012. From a production point of view, Georgia’s poultry industry has grown from exporting 7 percent of its total production to over 25 percent during that same period. That’s a success story we’re very proud of here at (the council).”

Maggie O’Quinn, who leads Certified Angus Beef ® marketing efforts in parts of the U.S. and in Latin America, will speak at the Jan. 28 Ag Forecast at the Rome-Floyd County ECO River Education Center.

O’Quinn has launched the Certified Angus Beef brand in 15 markets across the Caribbean and Central and South America. She currently serves on the executive committee of the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Al Pearson, owner of Pearson Farms in Fort Valley, Ga., will speak at the Jan. 29 Ag Forecast at Georgia Farm Bureau Headquarters in Macon.

Pearson is a middle Georgia peach and pecan farmer who has grown Pearson Farms to include 2,700 acres of peach and pecan trees, a peak season workforce of 200 people and a growing export market.

Jimmy Webb, a managing partner with Harvey Jordan Farms Partnership in Leary, Ga., will speak at the Jan. 30 Ag Forecast at the University of Georgia Conference Center in Tifton.

Webb, a 28-year veteran cotton and peanut producer, has held leadership roles in a number of cotton and peanut trade groups.

He currently serves as a Georgia delegate to the National Cotton Council and to the Cotton Board, as president and director of Cotton Council International, as director of the Southern Cotton Growers group and as president of American Peanut Marketing.

Richard Barnhill, owner of Mazur and Hockman Peanut Brokers, will address the Jan. 31 Ag Forecast in Bainbridge at the Cloud (Decatur County) Livestock Facility.

Barnhill has worked in the peanut processing industry since 1986, and he is a former president of the American Peanut Council, a former board member of the Georgia Peanut Producers Association and past chairman of the Associate Board of the American Peanut Shellers Association. He will speak on the export market for Georgia peanut products.

Jon Schwalls, director of operations for Southern Valley Fruit and Vegetables, will address the Feb. 1 Ag Forecast in Lyons.

Southern Valley Fruit and Vegetable is a Norman Park, Ga. producer of cucumbers, peppers, squash, watermelons, green beans and other vegetables. In addition to their 3,000-acre farm in Georgia, Southern Valley operates a 1,500-acre farm in Mexico so that they can provide vegetables to their customers year-round.

This is the first year UGA has held its Ag Forecast in Bainbridge and Lyons. It is also the first year in several years that a Ag Forecast meeting has been held in Rome.

Registration is now open and information about the 2013 Ag Forecast is posted at georgiaagforecast.com and on Twitter through @GaAgForecast. For more information, contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension office at 1-800-275-8421.

(Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)