Agriculture, Featured, News

Georgia government officials meet over disaster relief

     Pick-up trucks flooded the parking lot at the UGA Conference Center as farmers walked into the auditorium hoping to hear good news from Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Ag. Commissioner Gary Black. The meeting was hosted by the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.

     The pair flew into Tifton by helicopter to discuss disaster relief efforts happening in Washington D.C.  to help farmers affected by Hurricane Michael. Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue and U.S. Congressmen Austin Scott, Sanford Bishop and Buddy Carter joined the discussion through a video conference call.   

     The state’s agriculture industry suffered a loss in the following areas: peanuts, poultry, soybeans, dairy, pecans, greens, timber, vegetables and fruit. The University of Georgia estimates a $2.5 billion loss for Georgia agriculture, including a $780 million loss in timber alone.

     Senator Perdue used his time to make an apology to the farmers in the audience, “I want to apologize to all the farmers out there in this meeting. Washington was here and saw it firsthand after the storm and they told us they had our backs.” Perdue has talked with President Trump and was assured of his full support to push the legislation through the senate and congress.

     Kemp said “I’m all for helping everybody else that needs it after a disaster—whether that’s California after a wildfire, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina. We have helped our neighbors when they needed help, and I called Governor Ivey after the devastating storm that hit Lee County and offered our support. That offer still stands, but we need our help too.”

     A day after the deadly tornados swept through the state, Kemp received a phone call from the president. The governor used the conversation as an opportunity to express the urgency in expediting the aid to the southeast.

     The Georgia House of Representatives enacted House Bill 4EX, which allows eligible taxpayers to apply for the Timber Tax Credit from the Georgia Department of Revenue (GADOR). The program is limited to the 28 counties, including Tift, in the governor’s disaster declaration area. The tax credit should assist farmers in offsetting economic losses from Hurricane Michael.

     Initially, a $1 billion aid package failed to meet the approval of President Donald Trump because the deal included more funding for Puerto Rico who suffered crippling destruction from Hurricane Maria.

      Senator Isakson weighed in on the issue concerning Puerto Rico. “Puerto Rico is not a state, they suffered terrible damage, but they also have a crime-ridden government. Their electrical power grid has more power stolen off it than people who live there that pay for it.” He then commended President Trump, for doing everything he can to save taxpayers money.

     Congressman Scott pointed out the silver lining about the difference between the original legislatures and the current. “The original legislation was drafted at 1 billion dollars. That’s not 1 billion dollars for Georgia, that’s one billion dollars for the entire southeast and for California’s wildfires.”

     Scott continued, “We are much better off with a $3 billion appropriation passing this month than we would have been with a $1 billion appropriation passing in November or December.”

     An agribusiness owner asked if destroyed warehouses and facilities would be covered in the legislation. Bishop weighed in by saying, “The Small Business Administration has a part to play in terms of supporting agribusiness and including in the overall disaster package resources to deal with that.

     “Along with that,” Bishop continued, “The Community Facilities Program has $150 million for grants to facilities and services that are essential to our rural communities. That entire package will be there to help rehabilitate and support our rural communities and that includes agribusinesses.”

     In late February, Perdue and Isakson introduced a bill to the Senate for $13.6 billion in relief efforts to places affected by natural disasters. The bill has support from President Trump and Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. The senators from Georgia were promised by McConnell that the bill would receive floor time before the last Monday in March so that it can be passed.

     Members of the audience expressed appreciation for Kemp and Black meeting in person with farmers amid the General Assembly session happening in Atlanta. Though appreciative, members expressed their exhaustion from dealing with the relief delays.

     Bishop explained why farmers are having trouble securing operational loans for the rapidly approaching planting season. “Time is of the essence,” said Bishop. “They’ve got to make sure that arrangements are made for last year’s operational loans to be satisfied so that lenders will know what will be coming forward so that everybody can make plans.”

     Congressman Carter praised Bishop and Scott for spearheading this legislation. “Especially thank these two guys [Scott and Bishop] in the house. It was a team effort in the house, but these two guys were the leaders.”

     Despite support from the President and Senate, it could take the house of representatives several weeks to finalize the aid package. David Bishop, a farmer from Hawkinsville, worried—despite having disaster relief—if he and other farmers would benefit after the losses brought on by the storm.

     Despite justified concerns with the timeliness of receiving relief after a five-month wait, the audience gave their politicians respect and support to continue fighting on their behalf.

     Future meetings will be held in South Georgia to discuss more information about the Timber Tax Credit from the GADOR. The closest meeting will be March 13, at the UGA Cooperative Extension Office in Cordele at 6:30 p.m.

Agriculture

UGA Extension internship opportunities

     On Jan. 30, over 40 ambitious ABAC students gathered in Ag Science room 139 at 5 p.m. for an informational workshop over the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Internship Program.

     The workshop consisted of a presentation by employee recruitment and internship coordinator, Maria Bowie and testimony from the previous intern, Shelby Sangster. The event was free to all ABAC students and was catered by Chick-fil-a. Each student who attended the workshop was rewarded with a Chick-fil-a meal for having a dedicated interest in planning for their future.

     Bowie explained that the role of an extension agent is to serve as a resource to communities. Extension agents distribute only current research-based information. She further explained that the internship program allows students to be paired with an extension agent to ensure that the intern gains hands-on experience in the field as well as the office. Bowie asserted that the internship program is a chance for students to become a part of something that is bigger than themselves.

     Sangster, a student at UGA Tifton, completed the UGA Cooperative Extension Internship in the summer of 2018. Sangster enthusiastically shared her internship experience with workshop attendees as she explained that the opportunity was exciting, educational and allowed her to gain class credit. Sangster emphasized how rewarding it was to take a group of 4-H members to summer camp through her internship. Sangster encouraged all workshop attendees to grasp the opportunity and apply for the internship.

     Students who are interested in applying for the UGA Cooperative Extension Internship Program are required to submit an application consisting of a cover letter and an updated resume. The applications should be submitted online to the CAES scholarships and internships portal. In order to be considered, ABAC students should include educational details specific to ABAC, such as major and hours completed.

     The deadline to apply for a fall semester internship is May 1, while deadlines for spring and summer 2020 are Oct. 1, 2019, and Feb. 1, 2020.

Agriculture

Do you want to become a SANR Leader?

     ABAC is looking for individuals to represent the School of Agriculture and Natural Resources (SANR). These students will be known as SANR Leaders, a new program coming to ABAC.

     Although the SANR Leaders are a new program, they already have plans for the future. The SANR Leaders will be the face of the SANR while also recruiters for ABAC.

     Those that are chosen as the SANR Leaders will share their unique ABAC experiences with prospective students, parents and the public. These students must be professional and proud representatives of the SANR and ABAC.

     The goal of the SANR is to gain the attention of students looking for a college so that they will join the ABAC family. Students that are selected must be able to develop rotating schedules for team members to operate and manage the Snapchat account for the SANR.

     Members of the SANR Leaders must attend mandatory training sessions and monthly planning meetings to prepare for events and activities as well as participate in alumni and donor-related activities when needed.

     The leaders must also share their stories and experiences with various, diverse audiences.

     Other duties include participation in leadership classes and conferences. SANR Leaders will assist with annual recruitment events such as the Sunbelt Ag Expo, ABAC Farm Tours on Family Weekend, Stallion Days, Career Connections and orientations. They must also attend the Georgia and National FFA Convention, the SANR Classic Golf Tournament, Georgia FFA career development events on campus, Stallion Scholars Forum, Commodity Conferences and the Georgia FFA South Region Rally.

     Students that become a SANR Leader must abide by the ABAC Student Code of Conduct and will serve a one-year term, which beings in August and ends in May. The maximum amount that a student can serve is two years.

     Students that are interested in being a part of the SANR Leader team must fit a few qualifications.

     SANR leaders must maintain a 2.60 GPA, be in pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree in the School of Agriculture and Natural Resources, demonstrate outstanding leadership and communication skills, maintain membership in at least one SANR club or organization and they must have completed at least one fall and spring semester at ABAC.

     Applications are out now, and the deadline is April 1. For more information about the SANR Leaders, please contact Suzanne Bentley.

Agriculture

The Wildlife Society presents 2019 conclave

     This year, ABAC will be hosting the 2019 Wildlife Society Southeastern Student Conclave. This event is a competition between 22 to 24 colleges, all from 14 states across the Southeast.

     The event will have various physical and intellectual challenges for contestants: tree identification, skeet shooting, archery, orienteering and a wildlife lab practical.

     However, the quiz bowl will likely be the biggest part of the competition.

     Members of the Wildlife Society have been preparing for the event since the start of the spring semester. The event itself will be held at the end of Spring Break, starting Thursday, March 21 and ending with the awards on Saturday, March 23. Currently, there are still several volunteer positions open for anyone willing to help.

     The sign-up sheet can be found in the Yow Building’s lounge, and for more information, contact the Wildlife Society President, Matthew Cooper at mcooper10@stallions.abac.edu, or Yow advisor Dr. William Moore at wmoore@abac.edu.

Agriculture

Professor Spotlight: Dr. Sergio Pichardo

     Sergio Pichardo joined ABAC as an agriculture professor last fall. Pichardo is originally from León, Nicaragua. It was there that he attended the National Agriculture University and earned his Bachelor of Science in agronomy.

     Pichardo traveled halfway across the world to pursue his master’s degree at Uppsala University in Sweden. He received his Master’s in Plant Pathology and Mycology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden. Pichardo finally earned his Ph.D. in Entomology and Plant Pathology at Mississippi State University (MS).

     While at MS, Pichardo worked as a teaching assistant and research teaching assistant. He also taught genetics and microbiology at Thomas University in Nicaragua for 15 years. After hearing about a position opening at ABAC from a colleague, Pichardo decided to apply. Within a week after his interview, he was hired. He officially began teaching at ABAC in August of 2018.

     Pichardo currently teaches fundamentals of plant protection and insect pest management. He said that grades are extremely important and want to make sure students are prepared. He uses different methods to help students learn materials including games and extra-credit work. Pichardo doesn’t just assign his student’s classwork but also lets them do hands-on work.

     His students have visited the greenhouse at UGA and went to the farm on campus to see how sprayer calibration works.  Pichardo said that knowing how to use pest management equipment like this is just as important as learning in the classroom.

     Next semester he will teach fundamentals of plant protection alongside plant disease management. He also plans on using different academic tools in the future to help students even more. When he isn’t working, Pichardo enjoys biking, going on hikes and visiting parks.

     Since coming to ABAC, Pichardo has had a great experience. “Teaching is something I enjoy doing.” He also said that the students here are very respectful and engaged. “If I can do something to help them reach their goals then I will do it,” Pichardo said that the staff is just as nice as the students. “I feel very comfortable here at ABAC. I like the environment. The faculty is friendly, and the students are nice. It’s a good way to live.”