Zippy Duvall w/ GFB Addresses Ag

Senior Editor, Barbara Kieker with GrowingGeorgia Monday, 29 November 2010


With an office in 158 of the state’s 159 counties, the Georgia Farm Bureau
(GFB), like the agriculture industry it represents, is a vital part of each
county’s economy.  Zippy Duvall, GFB president, compares Farm Bureau to a
spider web that stretches to every community in the state.

“There is a GFB office within 15 to 20 minutes of any home in Georgia,”
Duvall said. “Our county infrastructure is so valuable because it keeps us
in touch with our members and their high-priority issues.”

Founded in 1937 by farmers, the GFB is the largest voluntary agricultural
organization in the state.  Its purpose is to serve as the voice of farmers
on local, regional, state and national issues.

*• Issues for Georgia farmers*
Duvall, GFB officers and directors, staff, and volunteers are focused on
representing farmers on the high-priority issues impacting their operations.
 Some of the many issues the organization has addressed this year include:

*• Water use and availability*
The GFB has been very active in working with the state legislature and
Governor Perdue on the state water plan.  Recently, Duvall and others in the
GFB accompanied Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Allen
Barnes on a two-day tour of farms in southwest Georgia.

“I think he was surprised at how far ahead of the game farmers are in terms
of water conservation and I was encouraged to hear him say that a public
benefit should not come at a private cost,” Duvall said.

*• Technology fees charged by seed companies*
According to Duvall, Georgia farmers pay the highest technology fees in the
U.S. for the same cotton and soybean seed that is sold to farmers across the
country. The GFB has been working with the seed companies and state
officials to curb technology fees.

“We support the technology but we want to bring some common sense to the
fees,” Duvall explained.

According to Duvall, the seed companies have brought something to the table
by offering to assign a new weed specialist to the state, and enhancing the
Performance Plus Program that returns a portion of the cost of controlling
weeds to the farmers. While appreciating their efforts, Duvall believes
technology fees, especially for cotton, remain too high.

*• Food safety*
Following the tomato scare in 2008 and the peanut scare in 2009, food safety
has become a top issue for the U.S. ag industry.  In Georgia, tomato farmers
took a $14 million hit in just two months in 2008, following a false warning
by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  The GFB has been very proactive
in talking with regulators and farmers about food safety.

“We support regulations that protect our food supply while not being overly
burdensome to farmers,” Duvall said.  “We want to be sure that farmers can
make a living.”

*• International trade*
Duvall has been recently to Cuba, Korea and China to bring knowledge of
Georgia agriculture to farmers and officials in these countries.  According
to Duvall, there is a huge need for beef, chicken and grain especially in

“Farmers around the world tend to want to protect their own turf.  We need a
good understanding so that we can open up markets and help each other,”
Duvall explained.

According to Duvall, a prime example of the benefits of international trade
is the pecan market where trade with China has accounted for the purchase of
30 million pounds of the pecan crop in Georgia over the past three years.
 Duvall said, “Exports have helped minimize the price fluctuations the pecan
market has always experienced.”

*• Ag research in Georgia*
The state’s current financial situation has meant cutbacks for the
agricultural research programs at state universities.  The GFB has been
advocating for continued funding for these programs.

“Our ag research keeps us on the cutting edge by developing new varieties,
finding ways to keep food prices affordable and produce food safely,” Duvall

Cooperative Extension is facing cutbacks as well.  According to Duvall,
youth programs like 4-H and the educational outreach programs Extension
provides, are an investment in the future for agriculture that should not be

*A member-driven organization*
The GFB continues to look for ways to add value for its members.  Over the
past several years, the number of member benefits Farm Bureau offers has
more than doubled.  Its insurance, banking and brokerage services continue
to grow.  Other member benefits include hotel, car rental and prescription
drug discounts and a free text message service that provides futures market
data three times a day. Thanks to the work of its 2,000 volunteers, the GFB
is out in communities every day, advocating for farmers and promoting rural

“Agriculture is Georgia’s number one industry,” Duvall continued, “and the
future of our state, especially communities in rural Georgia, depends on the
success of our farmers.”

More information on the Georgia Farm Bureau is available at

Dr. Teri Hamlin
North Region Agriculture Education
Georgia Department of Education
204C Four Towers University of Georgia
Athens, Ga 30602
706-552-4461 / 706-540-0032
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