UGA to stop free soil tests for farmers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

UGA to stop free soil tests for farmers

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April 18, 2003

CAMILLA - Restructuring by the University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences could deliver another blow to area farmers. Basic soil tests, now free for farmers, would carry a price tag come July first. 

Farmers routinely use county extension offices for soil sampling, sometimes as many as 100 at a time for free testing. Mitchell County Extension Agent Edd Harrison said, "It's actually - it is the most important first step in determining the lime and fertilizer reccomendations."

Farmers use the testing to determine nutrient amounts in the soil before planting. Normally, they test during the fall planting season when the weather is typically the dryest.

Farmer Murray Campbell said charging farmers for testing could be a detriment. "It's not a large cost to the state or large costs to the university. They do that sampling testing mostly with students," he said. At the University of Georgia, students interested in chemistry and other aspects of farming are tasked with doing the testing giving them vital experience.

Campbell said he also fears that charging for the tests will hurt smaller farmers and eventually South Georgia's economy. "It's gonna affect smaller and part-time and limited resource farmers because you tend to want to skimp (on fertilizing)." That, he said, will ultimately affect the yield of crops. "You are going to have less yield and it's going to be a tremendous blow to the economy."

In addition to harming the economy, Campbell says fewer people will use the service and turn to private companies who have a quicker turn around.

"I would love to see them rethink it. Any one thing like that is not too much," Campbell said.

Until then, the new fee will just be another cost that farmers have to absorb.

The tests will likely run between $4 and $6 each, which means testing a 1000 acre field would cost farmers up to $300.

posted by mathew.palmer@walb.com