Georgia Farm Bureau convention underway on Jekyll Island

JEKYLL ISLAND, GA (WTOC) - Hundreds of farmers from across Georgia are gathering on Jekyll Island this week, but not for fun and sun.

They're meeting to have serious discussions about the future and what they need to stay solvent. Most of the time, you can't get farmers off their tractors long enough to meet and talk about what helps or hurts their business, but they gather at the Farm Bureau Convention to discuss what's happening and craft a single message they want Atlanta and Washington to hear.

They packed the convention center to discuss the state of agriculture, especially in Georgia. They say things like tariffs, taxes, and water rights can make or break a farm.

"As a farmer, it's no longer enough to just watch commodity prices. We've got to have a presence in the political arena," said Chris Hopkins, Toombs County. "What happens in the political arena has an impact on us even more than we realize."

The farmers come from each county in Georgia and bring with them a range of specialties, from row crops to cattle. Farm Bureau's representatives take the input from the meetings and lobby for state or federal policies that will help keep farmers in business.

"I think it's very important and I think that's where Georgia Farm Bureau plays a very important role. They become the voice and the image of agriculture in the state of Georgia," said Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal.

Zippy Duval once served as state president. Now, he leads the national chapter.

"This is my 40th year at this. My dad dragged me down here a couple of years after I got out of college," Duval said.

He says the positions farmer collectively hammer out at this convention become the battle plan for those who watch lawmakers.

"It's critical to make sure something bad doesn't happen that affects us in a negative way," Duval said.

"We see every commodity, every interest group come together under one voice for Georgia agriculture. It's very important," said Gary Black, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture.

That sometimes means compromising on a platform that helps keep farmers in the business of feeding America and beyond.

"We have a more unified voice, a little more lobbying power. I think our voice resonates a little louder when you have a group of farmers together like this," Hopkins said.

Farmers like Chris see the days at the convention center more as an investment than a holiday.

They'll start talking policy Monday afternoon and continue Tuesday.

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