Agriculture commissioner weighs in on Georgia's drought -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Agriculture commissioner weighs in on Georgia's drought

July 12, 2007

Ashburn -- Georgia's Agriculture Commissioner, Tommy Irvin, told the Rotary Club today that this year's drought has added to the challenges faced by Georgia farmers.

"The pasture was so dry, a month ago if you kicked the grass you would get dust," said Irvin. "The most severe part of all of this was the livestock, dairy herds, and cattle because the hay is not out there. We are facing a real problem is we don't get some summer and fall rain to get hay to feed our livestock."

Rotary member Clay Pirkle is the Senior Vice President of the Colony Bank of Ashburn. On his time off, he farms. He has seen the effects of the drought on and off the farmland.

"The overall economy from the hotel industry to the retail establishments, restaurants, and automobile dealerships have all been negatively impacted in sales through out the region," said Pirkle.

The amount of water that clay has used to plant his peanuts and getting them to sprout is more than he would normally use in a year. The drought has forced farmers to think outside the box in their farming tactics.

"In our crop mix, with the drought we have had to rely on our irrigated land to feed our cattle, said Pirkle. "So we have millet planted on irrigated areas so that we could feed our cattle this year."

Irvin says that in order for the state to keep a float in the market, Georgia needs to increase the amount it exports.

"It's a tough deal to get into a new market, but taking the house leadership, which is now republican, and we meet in Cuba and I think that market will continue to expand. it was a smart move and I think they appreciate the exposure," said Irwin.

But we must remember to keep the quality of our products at the forefront. "We have an excellent program making sure that we produce excellent products that get into the hand of consumers," said Irwin. "I think we have one of the best in the nation."

Regardless of what it takes, Rotary members hope that the economy of Southwest Georgia improves.