Gov.-elect Brian Kemp appeared to about make his exit, stage-left, from the podium at the Georgia Farm Bureau convention at the Jekyll Island Convention Center.
That’s when GFB President Gerald Long picked up the chainsaw.
It was a brand-new Stihl model, signed by Long.
“It says, ‘From your friends at Georgia Farm Bureau, for cutting regulations,’” Long said. “We thought that would help him out some, OK?”
It was certainly one of the friendlier rooms Kemp could expect to see as he transitions into the governor’s office — he thanked the Farm Bureau members in attendance, and emphasized his thanks to the many of them who supported his campaign from the beginning.
“As many of you know, I cut my teeth in agriculture as a teenager, worked on friends’ family farms during the summers and throughout my days in college,” Kemp said. “As Gerald mentioned, I majored in agriculture at the University of Georgia. I farm, and I have been involved in several agribusiness ventures. I don’t see agriculture as a business of the past — I truly believe agriculture is a huge part of Georgia’s future.”
He said to keep the state tops in business, and to put it on the top for small business, “we must continue to stand with our farmers, our agribusiness leaders, and our agritourism pioneers. We need to identify and slash regulations that hinder job growth, create ridiculous amounts of paperwork, which slow expansion and investment. We need to empower entrepreneurs, foster relationships between the family farm and research institutions, and find ways to make it easier to get your goods to the marketplace.
“I have a plan to work with (state Agriculture) Commissioner (Gary) Black to take the Georgia Grown program international. In fact, the next first lady of Georgia, as many of you have gotten to know, over the past weeks and months of the campaign, had a great meeting with Commissioner Black and Miss Lydia last week, and they discussed how she could be a part of tending to build a great brand that they had created, and to do even more in the future.”
Kemp also said he intends to make the UGA College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences the best ag school in the country, and to strengthen the cooperative extension service. He noted his belief that agriculture was not only the state’s oldest and largest industry, it was the backbone of the state’s economy.
Long said he believed the work of the Farm Bureau in turning out votes during this year’s election made a difference.
He said they intended to wrap up work early today to ensure people attending the convention were able to get back home and vote in the runoff, if they hadn’t voted already.
“It is gratifying to see those ‘I Farm, I Vote’ signs as I drove through the towns and the countryside,” Long said. “It demonstrated Farm Bureau’s commitment to get out the vote.”
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, who also spoke Monday morning, said that Congress is working on two supplemental spending bills, one of which is expected to contain disaster funding for Hurricane Michael recovery and other issues.
“We have others in our community who are suffering as well — not just from Hurricane Michael, but from some of the other disasters that have happened,” Carter said. “Our fruit growers have experienced two straight years of losses due to late freezes, and we understand that and continue to work on that.”
Ahead of that legislation, Carter said he expected Congress to pass a continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating — they’ve passed 75 percent of the federal budget, he said, but there’s still 25 percent of funding that needs to be ironed out.
Monday afternoon, the House Appropriations Committee announced the filing of a continuing resolution that would keep the government open through Dec. 21.
Carter also said that there’s an agreement in principle on the 2018 Farm Bill, and that it should be up for votes within the next two weeks.
“It needs to be passed,” Carter said. “I know it’s extremely important to you, it’s extremely important to our agricultural community, but we will get that done.”
Regarding the continuing drama on tariffs, Carter said he fully supported President Donald Trump’s efforts in dealing with China in getting to what he sees as a fairer trade policy.
“I’ve always said that we’re going to have to experience some short-term pain in order to have some long-term gain here,” Carter said. “I hope you will hang with us on this, and I hope you will let us know anything you need to help you get through this, because it is vitally important.”
Also on the trade front, Congress is set to debate a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is titled the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Carter said he wants to support the deal, but wants something — perhaps a side deal — that would provide protections for American fruit and vegetable growers.