The continued operation of the food and agriculture industry is vital to the health and wellness of people during this global emergency. The one thing we don’t have to worry about in this country is a shortage of food. The U.S. is literally the breadbasket of the world. Farmers still go to work every day, even if you can’t go to the office, school, or your local business. The food and agriculture industry is essential for the continued function of the American economy in this time of crisis.
We should all be thankful that we live in a country that has the safest, most abundant food supply in the world. We often take our food for granted. Food security is an important part of our national security and economic success as a nation. Much of the world lacks the natural resources (fertile soil and water) to feed themselves. The U.S. is a blessed land and will continue to be the major breadbasket of the world.
Agriculture is the number one, largest industry in Georgia and arguably the most important, since we all have to eat. Annually, Georgia’s agriculture industry has a production value of over $13.75 billion and accounts for more than 392,400 jobs. Food and fiber production and related industries, directly and indirectly generate a total economic contribution of $73.7 billion in output to Georgia’s $1 trillion economy.
Georgia is known around the world for five major commodities that all happen to start with the letter “P”. Of course, we’re still known as the Peach State, although Georgia ranks third in the nation for peaches. Nationally, Georgia is ranked as the number one state for poultry, peanuts, and pecans. Georgia is also ranked as the top forestry state in the nation (24.7 million acres) with our renewable pulpwood industry.
Rest assured, our supply chain won’t run out of toilet paper or food any time soon! There’s no reason to stockpile food or paper products at home. Grocery stores and farmers markets will remain open and will restock their products each day.
The food and agriculture industry has been designated a “Critical Infrastructure Segment” under Presidential Policy Directive 21 and Department of Homeland Security emergency readiness programs implementing the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001. It is therefore the policy of the United States government that these industries continue to function with minimal disruption in the event of an emergency.
If you feel the need for more food security, consider planting a garden. Perhaps it’s time to bring back the “victory garden” or war garden concept from the World Wars I and II era. Since our country is at war with an invisible enemy, everyone should do their part. Stay at home and plant a garden! During war time, governments encouraged people to plant victory gardens not only to supplement their rations but also to boost morale. If you get “spring fever” and want to try your hand at gardening, UGA Extension has resources to help. Most anything you could possible need to know about home gardening can be found on our website at https://t.uga.edu/5LI.
Gardening can have a therapeutic effect on people that have undergone physical or mental trauma. The act of nurturing a garden can provide people with a way to work through difficult issues, reduce stress, and heal their wounds. Plants affect the level of compassion and empathy that people feel towards others. Numerous studies have shown that people who spend time around plants are more likely to help others and have improved relationships. People who spend time outside in nature have a more positive outlook on life than people who spend a great deal of time indoors.
Rest assured if a farmer has an urgent need for an on-site visit to diagnose a disease, insect, or troubleshoot a problem, we are here to help. Our Agricultural Extension Agents and Specialists will work out a safe way to look at the issue and get an answer to our farmers. Many of our clients are already very accustomed to contacting county agents directly, and we encourage them to continue doing this. While it is not at all “business as usual,” we want to assure you that UGA Extension is committed to doing all we can to be a part of the solution in this unique situation. If you have a question, please feel free contact our office anytime.
###Paul Pugliese is the Extension Coordinator and Agricultural & Natural Resources Agent for Bartow County Cooperative Extension, a partnership of The University of Georgia, The U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Bartow County. For more information and free farm, lawn, or garden publications, call (770) 387-5142 or visit our local website at ugaextension.org/bartow.