Farmers upset over proposed budget cuts - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Farmers upset over proposed budget cuts

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By LeiLani Golden - bio | email

CAMILLA, GA (WALB) – Concerned farmers across the state are preparing for budget cuts to research and extension centers they rely on.

One of those centers is Mitchell County's Stripling Irrigation Research Park. The Georgia Board of Regents wants to close the center.

Wednesday, farmers from across southwest Georgia met to discuss how the closure would affect them and come up with ideas to fight it.

The Board of Regents wants to cut 12.5 million dollars from research and extension services that farmers work with everyday.

"It developed very quickly. We were surprised," said the Assistant Dean of UGA's Tifton Campus, Joe West. "It is exceedingly high, the cuts are massive. So for us to implement those cuts it's going to be very very difficult."

If the proposal goes into effect, the Stripling Irrigation Research Park in Mitchell county will close. The center provides research into better management practices for irrigation as well as science to back up discussions with Florida and Alabama in the water wars debate.

"As a committee here at Striplings, we are certainly concerned about Striplings," said Murray Campbell, the chair of the Stripling Advisory Committee. "We also wanted to give an opportunity for some other groups to come in have their say about some of the things they heard."

Agriculture is without a doubt vital to Georgia. It is the state's largest industry with an annual economic impact of $65 billion.

"If we don't have that research, we don't have those agents to get it back to camp. We've got a lot more jobs that will be lost long term," explained Campbell.

West added, "Once we're cut, it's going to be very difficult to replace it."

But there isn't much the farmers can do to stop the budget cuts but make their voices heard.

"We are a representative government. So communicating with them is so very important. This affects agriculture directly, this affects our youth directly and folks are not pleased about it."

Mitchell County farmer Glenn Cox is one of them. He said, "I understand budgetary restraints. Everybody needs to live within their means. But if we're gonna cut stuff, let's cut the waste. This is not waste. We're cutting meat off the bone."

Because as one farmer said, if they don't stop cutting now, they made need more than a bandage in the near future.

In the meeting today, agribusiness leaders urged farmers to contact their state and local representatives if they are not happy with the proposed budget cuts. The Board of Regents is expected to make a decision as early as next week on how to proceed.

 


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