September 8, 2010


Food talk dominates debate

Georgia’s number one industry, agriculture, and a breadth of related sustainable food issues were on the table at a debate Sept. 2 between the three candidates for the state’s agriculture commissioner.

A full house in Tull Auditorium heard this first-time exchange between the three, one of whom will become the first new agriculture commissioner in the state in 41 years. 

Sustainable Ag Debate Pt. 1 from Michael wALL on Vimeo.

Asked how to encourage the next generation of Georgia farmers, Democratic candidate J.B. Powell reminded the audience that the average age of a farmer in Georgia is 58.  He supports state incentives for young farmers, “making it profitable for young people to go into farming.”  

To increase the demand for organic foods, Libertarian candidate Kevin Cherry espoused eliminating incentives for large agribusiness conglomerates, and to “stop subsidizing factory farms with tax breaks.” Cherry was also a strong proponent of requiring licensed inspectors on the staffs of large farms to increase food safety and the frequency of food processing inspections.

Gary Black, the Republican candidate, announced that he and the Republican candidate for state school superintendent were planning to work in tandem to promote sustainable food issues and availability in public schools. 

Diverse perspectives were raised on major statewide issues such as the sale of raw milk, the role of farm irrigation in lowering water tables, and the benefits of organic production to reduce chemical runoff and worker exposure.

Each of the candidates supported promoting local food cultivation and consumption by serving local food in educational organizations and state-run facilities. Powell suggested expanding Emory’s ambitious sustainable food goal to procure 75 percent of the food in the hospitals and campus cafeterias from local or sustainably grown sources by 2015.   

The debate ended on a spirited note when candidates had the opportunity to ask each other questions directly, which centered on ethics, background and experience.

The debate was co-sponsored by Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives, Department of Political Science and Emory Law, plus Georgia Organics and the University of Georgia, among others.

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