Farm Monitor – March 2, 2019

Farm Monitor – March 2, 2019

This is Farm Monitor. For over 50-years, your source for agribusiness
news and features from around the southeast and across the country, focusing on one of
the nation’s top industries, Agriculture. The Farm Monitor is produced by one of the
largest general farm organizations, the Georgia Farm Bureau. Now, here are your hosts, Ray D’Alessio and
Kenny Burgamy. [RAY]
Well, you heard it right. since 1966, that is uhh… 53-years. Yes! 53-years. Your place for state and national ag news.
and so, another show begins. Hi again folks, welcome to the Farm Monitor,
I’m Ray D’Alessio [kenny]
And I’m Kenny Burgamy. happy to have ya along with us for the next
30-minutes. coming up, right to farm laws. could they be in jeopardy of going a way?
we’ll tell you about some crucial law suits involving the hog industry that could potentially
effect Georgia in the years to come. [ray]
A few years ago, we told you about Comfort Farms in Milledgeville, Georgia, and how it’s
helping veterans like owner Jon Jackson to heal. Well, so many good things have happened since
that story aired. we’ll tell how Jon and the rest of his friends
are now venturing outside their comfort zone, all in the name of helping fellow farmers. [kenny]
and then later, we sit down with former Governor Nathan Deal to discuss some of the high’s
and lows of his time in office. why he say’s he’s so thankful to you, the
American farmer. These stories and more starting right now,
on the Farm Monitor. [KENNY]
‘Right to Farm’ laws in the U.S., which deny nuisance lawsuits against farmers that use
standard farming practices, are currently being challenged, especially in North Carolina. That’s where 26 different cases are focused
on hog farms. Damon Jones tells you why it’s such a problem
for the agricultural industry and why Georgia farmers should be paying attention. [Damon Jones]
Hog farmers in the second largest pork producing state in the country have recently come under
attack, as 26 separate lawsuits have been filed in North Carolina over the past year
by neighboring residences claiming the operations are negatively impacting the enjoyment and
use of their property due to a number of issues. [Andy Curliss – CEO, NC Pork Council]
They complain of odor. They complain of trucks and then to a lesser
degree different issues depending on the plaintiff and depending on the circumstance flies, some
have complained about buzzards, odor being the main claim. In the law, nuisance law, they’re using
a corner of the law to get to what’s known as an annoyance claim and then trying to drive
up the verdicts after that. [Damon]
So far three verdicts have already going against farmers, totaling more $500 million in damages. And farmers believe a big reason why the courts
is will not allow the jurors to visit the farms and residences in question. [Andy]
These juries are being drawn from the urban area around Raleigh. They’re questioned about their familiarity
with agriculture and it’s very clear from these panels there’s no familiarity. And they’re not allowed to visit the farms. We would love for these jurors to visit the
farms because then they would see that these farms are not a nuisance. [Damon]
And this could start a domino effect, resulting in law suits against farmers all across the
country, including right here Georgia, the nation’s top poultry producing state. [Andy]
Oh, there’s no question that these suits are being brought by class action, big litigation
law firms that have a focus of bringing lawsuits against agriculture. So, could it happen in Georgia? Of course, it could. [Damon]
The choosing of sides has put a real strain on rural communities in North Carolina, as
it’s pitted neighbor against neighbor. [Andy]
These lawsuits have come in and they’ve really divided communities and have had a
severe impact on us. And it’s not just jury awards, you know,
it’s the idea that its even going on that’s been very painful. [Damon]
One piece of advice for the farmers is to be proactive before a problem arises. And even though might means getting out of
their comfort zone, it could pay dividends in the future. [Andy]
Know your neighbor. Um, know your area and cultivate that relationship
with folks. And you maybe have to go out farther that
what you thought. In some of these cases, the plaintiffs are
a mile away and when you go and stand at the farm and you go a mile away, you don’t even
know that there is a relationship between those areas. [Damon]
Reporting from Macon, I’m Damon Jones for the Farm Monitor. [RAY]
In other ag news, First Lady, Marty Kemp the guest of honor as the Georgia Department of
Agriculture hosted its annual Farm to Table Source show at the Atlanta Farmers Market. Mrs. Kemp, of course a huge advocate for Georgia
Grown. In fact she recently announced
that one of her goals is to ensure that virtually all the food served at the mansion is grown
right here in Georgia. Now in its 5th year, the Source Show provides
an avenue for nutritionist’s to meet growers and vendors from across the state that can
provide Georgia ag products for their specific operation. [Dr. Kathy Peavy/Georgia Department of Education]
It’s a difficult thing for our directors to constantly connect with a vendor that can
provide items to them. Farmers, vendors. Our school nutrition directors can’t constantly
try to reach out. But, the department of Ag does. [Gary Black/Georgia Ag Commissioner]
To come together and actually meet the person who’s making the buying decisions. And that’s just critical Ray, it’s what we’ve
got to do more to advance our 20…our 20/20 vision for school nutrition. Our vision’s been that every school, every
meal, every day…the start of the 2020 school year…that 20% of it be Georgia Grown. So, this is what’s helping us get there. [RAY]
Now meantime, when you think of a cricket, what is the first thing that comes to mind? [KENNY]
Well for one operation in southeast Georgia, it’s a precious commodity and the namesake
of their business. John Holcomb went to the farm and tells us
what’s chirping. [Glennville, GA/John Holcomb – Reporting]
Way down in southeast Georgia, farming is nothing out of the ordinary. Chances are, any road you take, you’ll pass
a cotton field or a plot of land set in timber, but in the small town of Glennville, there’s
a different type of farming that’s quite out of the normal – cricket farming. [Debbie Reddish – Chief Executive Manager]
The farm got started around 1947, when Tal Armstrong rolled into town; him being a contractor
plumber working at the Georgia state prison, a very fisher and hunter, he decided to send
his son out on a mission to catch crickets. They put them in a sugar barrel, and they
realized that they multiplied one day; that it wasn’t ants in the bottom of the barrel,
and so they started experimenting with it. [John]
They kept experimenting until they got the hang of it and found the best method to grow
them. And before long, a demand was there. [Debbie]
They started playing with it, and they had a broiler room back then and so they just
kind of moved around back. Well, it started working real, real good;
posted signs started advertising, until we had to turn around and build a cricket farm. [John]
Since their beginning, a lot has changed for them. Their customer base has expanded well beyond
just the fishing business, and due to the pet industry boom starting back in the nineties,
they’ve had to adapt and expand to more than just crickets. [Debbie]
Everything has just changed in the pet world, because now we have seven sizes of crickets,
whatever the reptile needs. We carry all the housing for the crickets;
just anything that a hobbyist would need, a pet store would need, any supplies like
that. [John]
And just like all other types of farming, growing crickets takes a lot of work and they
have challenges just like with growing anything else. [Debbie]
Cricket farming is seven days a week. We have to come in, we have to check temperatures
daily, each age of cricket has to stay a certain age to grow out properly, and to grow out
on time. If the heat falters, even on eggs in your
incubating room, it could stall a few days on hatching; and when you’re setting schedules
and you have to be in that room on Monday, and the crickets have not hatched out until
Wednesday or Thursday, then it does cause a big challenge to get the crickets caught
up. [John]
They also have far more challenges than just operations. Like all other commodities in Georgia, they
also have to deal with things like disease pressure and pests. [Debbie]
You’re challenging against diseases, you have to be extra careful. You have to be careful with sprays, with contacts,
with different things like that, you’re always fighting different beetle bugs that get into
the crickets, you’re fighting spiders; it’s just a common household spider, but there’s
always something that you will have to come up against, and you have to be ready for it. [John]
Reporting in Glennville for the Farm Monitor, I’m John Holcomb. [KENNY]
John, thanks so much. After the break, an update to a story we brought
you 3-years ago. How Comfort Farms and owner Jon Jackson continues
to help veterans in need and the ways in which they are now paying it forward. [Music]
[Milledgeville, Georgia/Ray D’Alessio-Reporting In 2016, The Monitor brought you the story
of Jon Jackson, a combat veteran who founded STAG VETS Incorporated and Comfort Farms in
Milledgeville, Georgia. A 20-acre property that enables wounded veterans
like Jon to heal through farming while at the same time giving them a sense of purpose. Our story however, wasn’t the only one. Others followed, and before he knew it, Jon
once again found himself being hailed a national hero. [Jon Jackson/Founder, Comfort Farms]
We were just getting, we were getting hit from every single direction. I mean, my, my social media posts blew up,
my emails, our website, everything started going through and all those things, just getting
that small amount of exposure to kind of say, hey this is what we’re doing, this is where
we’re at, here’s the vision, really like narrowed the focus for us as far as like what we need
to do and it really made it more, how can I say this? It made it, it sealed the deal for why we
were here. [Ray]
And all that exposure led to a plethora of opportunity, including partnerships with USDA,
FSA, and NRCS. Jon was invited to give a TED Talk, a showcase
for speakers presenting great, well-informed ideas. Even the popular show Bizarre Foods with Andrew
Zimmern featured the farm on one of its episodes. And now, there’s this, the soon to be released
documentary Comfort Farms. However, Jon tells me the focus has never
been about the farm itself. It’s always been about what the farm can do
for others in need. [Jon]
We are creating what they call the Georgia Small Family Farmers Association. It’s a grassroots effort into helping small
family farms get to where they need. Comfort Farms sees the need to go beyond just
a non-profit and to create more social enterprise. And so we’ve just initiated the House Bill
230 that’s in the House that will allow for a B Corporation, which would allow investment
to come in and allow these guys who actually come to Comfort Farms and learn to be able
to get investment and grow the entrepreneurial spirit in the state of Georgia. That’s where it’s at right now. [Patriotic Music]
[Ray] So in hindsight, what began as a sanctuary
and peaceful refuge for veterans of war, Comfort Farms has now become their headquarters. A base camp, so to speak. A place where new missions are planned then
executed on a different type of battlefield. [Jon]
When I wrote the blueprint for our way forward, it’s kind of something that we do, every Ranger
does before you go out to Land Nav or whatever you sit down, you chart your course. Part of that was to figure out what we need
to build into this program and that was servicing it. Food security, community outreach, helping
people. We had to identify systems that were not working
in our community. Small family farms have, are really struggling
just to make ends meet due to the corporatization of, actually, due to corporate vertically
integrating on their own, and now leaving a lot of the small family farms that they
were working with hung out to dry. So where do you come in? You know, they would just leave them out to
dry or, as Comfort Farms, can I instill a new mission within the vets who come here
to actually be able to help out. And that’s what it is about. So I get guys who never wanted to farm but
they have the service aspect in them. They wanna learn how to farm, they wanna learn
how to give back to their community. Farming is just synonymous with war in so
many ways that I can’t even explain. And for why it works, there’s just some magic
bond. [Ray]
And make no mistake about it, Comfort Farms is a well-oiled machine and run very similar
to a military operation. For those who choose to accept the mission,
Jon has these words of wisdom. [Jon]
There’s nothing comfortable about Comfort Farms. The farm is ran, even though we’re non-profit,
the farm is ran as a structured business. We have things that we have to do. We have deadlines that we have to meet. And it’s definitely that military aspect on
the farm environment, working with our communities, there’s just so much stuff going around. It’s food. Food is life. The dirt is life. Sustainability is life, and without it, we’re
nothing. [Dramatic Music]
[Ray] In our first meeting with Jon, one of the
questions that was asked, will the mission ever be complete? Three years later, his answer hasn’t changed. [Jon]
We’re still losing 22 a day. We’ve still got vets who are, like myself,
who go through a lot of things, man. You know, we keep the facade that we’re okay,
you know, we’re uhh..we deal with a lot. But it’s until every vet is accounted for. Until every vet has hope, until every vet
family has a sense that you know, we can handle this thing. You know, I don’t… I don’t have a long life to live to achieve
all the goals that I want. So I feel I need to continue to do what I
can while I’m here. [Ray]
In Milledgeville, Georgia, I’m Ray D’Alessio. [Music] [Music]
[Parker Wallace] Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “The first
farmer was the first man.” Jan Jones is a millennial peanut farmer who’s
creating some firsts of her own, as a woman who happens to be really good at her job. [Jan Jones]
Like I still get the, “Oh you’re still farming? “You still like it?” You know, five years later and I’m like, at
what point will this not be a novelty to you? [Parker Wallace]
Jan and her sisters grew up helping out on the family’s farm in Southwest Georgia. She earned her degree, set her sights on a
teaching career. But after a disappointing first year, Jan
came home to the farm, to work part-time with her dad and figure out a new plan. [Jan Jones]
I really liked seeing what I was accomplishing behind me as I was doing it; that immediate
gratification was something that I didn’t see in teaching at all. I fell in love with it, so I stayed! [Jerry Jones]
That’s not to say she hadn’t tore up a few things, ’cause she has! [Jan Jones]
One of the things that really helped that process was figuring out that he wouldn’t
be hard on me if he didn’t think that I could take it. And if he wasn’t hard on me, I wouldn’t be
the farmer that I am. [Parker Wallace]
She’s a farmer, and a businesswoman. Jan took out a loan, and now she manages the
agricultural and financial responsibility for 150 acres. But Hurricane Michael threw all of that into
jeopardy. [Meteorologist]
It’s getting ready to move into South Georgia. [Parker Wallace]
The storm forecast to hit in the crucial days when the peanuts were ready to harvest. [Jan Jones]
Dad and I, we had to have a conversation, do we dig or do we leave ’em in the ground? It’s gut wrenching, there’s a stress level
there that’s just really hard to convey, but then at the same time there’s nothing you
can do about it. What are we going to wake up to Thursday morning? [Parker Wallace]
Their joint decision to leave the peanuts in the ground ultimately saved the crop, but
it was still a gamble. [Jan Jones]
Dad and I, neither one of us by any means have like, the Cadillac version of crop insurance. You can’t afford it. [Jerry Jones]
There’s a lot of rewards in farming, but it’s also a lot of heartaches and a lot of disappointments. I’m proud that she’s got it in her blood and
wants to do it. No doubt she could probably go do something
and make more money, but a lot of times money isn’t happiness. [Parker Wallace]
And if you could somehow harvest happiness, it would be the sweetest crop of all. For now, peanuts will do just fine. [Jan Jones]
They taste sweeter right after you dig ’em up. [Music]
[RAY] Well, finally this week, former Georgia Governor
Nathan Deal is reflecting back. [KENNY]
In his final days at the capitol, Governor Deal sat down with us and shared what he considers
some of his greatest achievements while in office, including the improvements on Jekyll
Island. [Music]
[Nathan Deal/Former Georgia Governor [2011-2019]] Well I am very fortunate to have been raised
in a farm environment. My father was a vocational agriculture teacher,
and my mother was a first-grade school teacher, so in small community of Sandersville, Georgia. I thought it was a great place to grow up
and to become familiar with what the world is all about, starting with agriculture, which
is really one of the basic sources of income for our state. I grew up doing the kind of things that farms
boys do, I got involved in 4-H and then I got involved with FFA, showing livestock,
participating in public speaking competitions, and I think all of that just prepared me for
a life of public service. Well that’s a good question, and I am very
proud of what we’ve been able to do at the old 4-H camp on Jekyll Island. It’s almost a 17-acre track on a very pristine
part of Jekyll Island itself. When I first had the opportunity to see it,
I was appalled at the condition. It was an old building facility, they’d done
their best to keep it up, but age had taken its toll and I decided our young people needed
a better place to be able to come to a camp. So we were able to convince the General Assembly
in 2016, and they put 17-million dollars into the budget for the purposes of totally reconstructing
that facility. And we did, we tore the old facilities down
and started from scratch and it is a beautiful campus that has now been created and I am
very pleased at. And we’ve expanded the use of it by virtue
of that and it’s now slowly become a year-round facility where people come and it gives a
good impression of our state, it certainly gives a good impression of agriculture and
agriculture education. Well, it’s hard to specify one particular
part of our economy that’s been affected because I think agriculture, like every facet of our
economy, has been affected by the good times that we are now enjoying. Agriculture depends on people who buy their
products and we’ve seen our population grow from the tenth largest state to the eight
largest state, so there are more people that depend on the produce that is produced by
our agriculture, and more and more in modern times, exports have become important to the
agriculture community, and the Port of Savannah is a key ingredient in that. We have continued to put money in, we are
now well over what was originally contemplated as the state’s share of the deepening of the
Savannah port and the harbor, and it is on schedule I’m told. And what that does is it allows the larger
vessels to come in and that helps agriculture because if they’re exporting products overseas,
they need to have timely ability to export their product, get it to the marketplace as
soon as possible. And as a result of what we’ve done, we’ve
seen our exports from Georgia continue to grow rather rapidly. Now, also in terms of what we’ve done for
agriculture. I think this most recent session of the General
Assembly, where I called a special session after Hurricane Matthew, was specifically
aimed at trying to help the heartland that was impacted by that particular hurricane. We had about 270-million dollars that was
allocated for an emergency funding. It helped to replenish the of state agencies
that had used their resources to respond to the disaster. It was used also to help local governments
respond, and also we had some 200-million dollars that we created in a loan fund and
a tax credit fund really for the agriculture community to take advantage of it, primarily
aimed at being able to replant some of our forests that were devastated by the hurricane,
and to help those pecan growers to be able to replant their pecan orchards that in many
cases were totally destroyed. So, those are some of the highlights of it,
but I think overall, agriculture benefits from every other thing that has happened in
our state’s economy. [RAY]
Next week in Part-2 of our conversation with Nathan Deal, the former governor discusses
his future plans. and one of the trying moments during his time
in office. Hope you’ll join us. [Ray]
And with that, we will say so long until next time. [Kenny]
In fact, we’ll see you next week, right here on the Farm Monitor. [Ray]
Take care everybody.

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