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October 5, 2016

Vol. 34 No. 32

GFB POLICY DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE MEETS Georgia Farm Bureau’s Policy Development Committee met at the GFB headquarters in Macon Oct. 3 to review the organization’s current position on ag issues and to consider resolutions submitted by county Farm Bureaus in September. Look for the “This process started in August when our commodity committees met next issue of and reviewed our policy,” GFB President Gerald Long said. “Policy GFB News Development is how we determine the organization’s legislative Alert on direction. It is an example of pure democracy in action, and no other October 19. organization allows more open discourse than we do in Farm Bureau.” The GFB Policy Development Committee consists of 30 county presidents (three from each district), the chairmen of each of the 20 GFB Commodity Advisory Committees and the GFB Board of Directors. Also, included in this year’s PD Committee were the eight Georgia members of the American Farm Bureau Issue Advisory Committees. In addition to reviewing GFB’s existing policy, the GFB Policy Development Committee reviewed 275 resolutions submitted by 72 county Farm Bureaus across Georgia. The resolutions submitted by county Farm Bureaus cover a wide range of topics including issues related to livestock, environmental regulations, tax compliance, wildlife, and national farm programs. This year based on the number of resolutions received, taxes received more recommendations than any other topic. On the state level, preservation of the GATE program is a major concern. Under the GATE program, qualified producers are eligible to receive a sales tax exemption on commonly purchased inputs such as seed, feed, fertilizer and chemicals. Numerous resolutions were also submitted in support of the Conversation Use Value Assessment (CUVA) program which reduces property taxes for farmers who pledge not to develop their qualifying lands. Of concern at the federal level, resolutions were received regarding the 2018 farm bill. Lower commodity prices and a struggling farm economy have sparked much discussion about the design of upcoming legislation. The committee urged Congress to revisit various farm bill commodity programs and provide growers with a stronger safety net. The committee will meet again on Nov. 7 to finalize the policy book that will be presented to the voting delegates for approval at the GFB convention in December.

GFB News Alert page 2 of 16 UGA EXPERTS OFFER FARMERS TIPS FOR HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS With the approach of Hurricane Matthew, a pair of UGA Cooperative Extension Experts are offering tips to help farmers mitigate potential losses caused by the storm. UGA Animal Waste Specialist Melony Wilson suggested that livestock owners with manure lagoons pump them down to the “stop pumping” level. UGA Agricultural Climatologist Pam Knox offered a number of tips for other types of operations. “If you are in the affected area and have not made hurricane preparations, now is the time to start! Effects from the storm could come as early as Thursday night,” Knox said. Knox recommended the following steps for farmers: • Those who depend on electricity to run water pumps, milk cows or for other agricultural purposes should make sure their generators are filled with gasoline now. • Those with offices or homes with lightweight materials outside should take those items inside so they don’t become projectiles in high winds. • Those located on or near the coast, be prepared to evacuate from their homes or offices. If evacuation is necessary, preparations should be made to ensure pets and livestock can be kept safe for several days in case they’re not able to make a quick return due to fallen trees or washed out roads. Additionally, Knox cautioned against driving across roads with more than 6 inches of water on them. • Peanut farmers who are harvesting should leave the peanuts in the ground until the storm has passed. Knox noted that the nuts will retain better quality than if they are sitting out on top of the ground if it rains. Even though most of the rain is likely to be on the ocean side of the storm, there will be plenty of chances for heavy showers with the movement of rain squalls around the center of the storm. Other crops that need dry conditions for harvest may also be affected by Matthew’s rain. “Matthew could be one of the worst hurricanes to hit Georgia in many years,” Knox said. “I urge you to take this extremely strong storm seriously and do everything you can to keep yourselves and your families and colleagues safe.” MCMILLIAN NAMED GFB 4TH DISTRICT FIELD REPRESENTATIVE Josh McMillian will be filling the position of GFB’s 4th District Field Representative. Josh and his wife Carmen live in Barrow County. “We are excited to have Josh join our Field Services Department and the 4th District leadership team,” said GFB President Gerald Long. “We’re confident he will be a valuable asset to our farmers.” McMillian succeeds Rick Hubert, who retired in August. McMillian has been employed with Dow AgroSciences for the past five years. While working with Dow, he managed a four state territory as a range and pasture specialist and sales representative. McMillian also worked as a Josh McMillian research technician with UGA Forage Specialist Dr. Dennis Hancock. He graduated with honors from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 2007 and earned a master’s degree in plant protection and pest management in 2009.

GFB News Alert page 3 of 16 GFB FOUNDATION OFFERING UP TO $60,500 IN SCHOLARSHIPS The Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) Foundation for Agriculture is offering up to $60,500 in scholarships to Georgia students pursuing a degree related to agriculture, veterinary medicine, family and consumer sciences or a related field. Since 1959, GFB has awarded scholarships to students entering college with plans to pursue a career in agriculture or family and consumer sciences. In 2016, the GFB Foundation expanded the scholarship program to offer scholarships to rising college juniors and seniors, technical college students and veterinary college students. In 2017 GFB will award scholarships in the following four categories. Scholarship for Agriculture – This scholarship is for high school students who plan to enter a college that is part of the University System of Georgia, Berry College or Emmanuel College during the 2017-2018 academic year to pursue an undergraduate degree in agricultural and environmental sciences, family and consumer sciences or a related agricultural field. The GFB Foundation will award five scholarships of $3,000 each and seven scholarships of $1,500 each. Technical College Scholarship for Agriculture – This scholarship is for high school students who plan to enroll in a Georgia accredited technical college who will be majoring in an area of agriculture or an agriculturally related field of study. The GFB Foundation will award 10 scholarships of $1,000 each. Rising College Junior/Senior Scholarship for Agriculture – This scholarship is for college students who have at least two semesters of college work remaining to receive an undergraduate degree from a unit of The University System of Georgia, Berry College or Emmanuel College and are majoring in agriculture and environmental sciences, family and consumer sciences or a related agriculture field. The GFB Foundation will award 10 scholarships of $2,000 each. UGA College of Veterinary Medicine Scholarship - This scholarship is for students currently enrolled in the UGA Veterinary Medicine program specializing in large animal/food animal practice. The GFB Foundation will award two scholarships of $2,500 each. “Agriculture needs young people to become equipped with the skills that a technical college or college education provides to meet agriculture’s growing technology and research needs,” said GFB President Gerald Long, who chairs the GFB Foundation for Agriculture’s Board of Directors. “Georgia Farm Bureau wants to financially help students pursuing a career in agriculture who will be the future workforce and leaders of Georgia agriculture.” The deadline to apply for all of the scholarships is Feb. 3, 2017. Applications and scholarship eligibility requirements may be obtained from county Farm Bureau offices across Georgia or downloaded at the GFB Foundation for Agriculture website at The scholarship recipients will be announced in spring 2017, and the scholarships will be distributed in the summer of 2017. Georgia Farm Bureau is the state’s largest general farm organization. Its volunteer members actively participate in local, district and state activities that promote agriculture awareness to their non-farming neighbors. The GFB Foundation for Agriculture is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) corporation. Donations are tax-exempt. GFB is using the foundation to finance activities and educational materials designed to increase the agricultural literacy of Georgia residents. Donations may be made on the foundation website at or checks made payable to the GFB Foundation for Agriculture may be mailed to the GFB Foundation care of Katie Gazda at P.O. Box 7068 Macon, Ga. 31209.

GFB News Alert page 4 of 16 GFB TO FILE FRIEND OF COURT BRIEF IN SCOTUS WATER CASE Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) has been granted permission to file an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the case before the U.S. Supreme Court over water rights between Georgia and Florida. Attorneys for GFB requested permission to file the brief on Sept. 16. GFB was one of 12 organizations that asked to file amicus briefs, including the Georgia Agribusiness Council, the Georgia Green Industry Association, Georgia Urban Ag Council, American Peanut Shellers and the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association. Special Master Ralph Lancaster, who is managing the case on behalf of the Supreme Court, granted GFB’s motion on Sept. 21. In its motion to file a brief, GFB pointed out that the outcome of the case could seriously impact the way of life for many Georgians who depend on the success of Georgia agriculture. GFB sought to contribute information to enhance understanding of irrigation practices in southwest Georgia, the impact of irrigation on farming in that part of the state, as well as conservation efforts by farmers, GFB and its Water Committee. The motion referenced the state’s more than 42,000 farms and the fact that food and fiber production accounts for more than 400,000 jobs and a total economic contribution of $74.3 billion to Georgia’s economy. GFB also pointed out that the economic contribution of farming reaches well beyond the fields, to industries like equipment manufacturing and sales, higher education and agricultural lending. “No resource is more precious to southwest Georgia’s farming families than water,” attorneys wrote in the GFB motion. “Farm Bureau’s members are motivated to conserve and protect this resource for themselves and future generations. Indeed, these farming families (some in their seventh generation) have implemented extensive conservation measures and consistently engage in meaningful dialogues about Georgia’s future in conservation and farming.” The case, filed by the state of Florida in 2013, is an equitable apportionment case. Equitable apportionment is the water law doctrine that governs the Supreme Court’s allocation of interstate waters between or among states, according to the Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction. Florida asserts that Georgia’s use of water from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers has resulted in lower stream flows and high salinity in the Apalachicola River in northwest Florida, and the Apalachicola Bay on the Gulf Coast, resulting in economic losses in the state’s oyster industry. Georgia denies that its water use caused these losses, citing Florida’s own assertions that overharvesting caused some or all of the industry losses. Florida is asking the court to limit Georgia’s use of water in the Chattahoochee and Flint basins to 1992 levels. As attorneys for the two states work through the case, Georgia and Florida are also pursuing mediation to reach a water-sharing agreement, according to court documents. The case is scheduled for trial in Portland, Maine, beginning Oct. 31.

GFB News Alert page 5 of 16 LONG VISITS NORTH GEORGIA APPLE ORCHARDS Georgia Farm Bureau President Gerald Long visited five apple orchards in Fannin and Gilmer counties on Sept. 29 that are GFB Certified Farm Markets. He toured orchards, packing facilities and the markets, learning about their business practices and how the apples are cultivated. “Each one is unique,” Long said. “At the same time, you can see that they have many things in common with other types of farms around the state.” Long visited Mercier Orchards, Hillcrest Orchards, B.J. Reece Apple House, Mack Aaron Apple House and Little Bend Orchard’s Red Apple Barn, all of which offer customers the opportunity to pick apples and shop in their roadside markets, where apples are available by the bushel, peck or half-peck. Mercier Orchards has a full-service café and bakery, selling more than 1.4 million fried pies a year. Operator Tim Mercier also runs a packing facility where a variety of apple products, from apple juice to applesauce, are prepared for shipping to commercial outlets. Mercier has a line of hard ciders and wines, as well. Mercier said the orchard employs around 200 people. “We just want to make sure that no part of the apple is wasted,” Mercier said, noting that apples that fall on the ground can’t be sold for human consumption, but they can be processed into cider. At Hillcrest Orchards in Ellijay, the market is the jumping-off point for a carnival of farmbased activities. Hillcrest offers a wide range of agriculture-based entertainment, including pig races, a chance to hand-milk a cow, a petting zoo and an apple museum. The orchard hosts school groups, teaching students about agriculture in general and providing them lots of detailed information about apple production. In the Hillcrest Apple Museum, tour guides tell schoolchildren about Johnny Appleseed, explaining the process of grafting limbs and how farmers care for their orchards. The Apple Museum has numerous question and answer flip boards containing information about various aspects of apple cultivation. At B.J. Reece Apple House, Long met with Rachel Reece. Long, who runs his own self-pick vegetable farm in Decatur County, shared experiences in operating a direct-to-public farm business. Diverse product offerings were one common thread between the five apple houses, which all offer numerous apple products for sale along with other farm products, like jams and jellies, honey, sweet potatoes and a variety of vegetables, as well as the always-popular boiled peanuts. Mack Aaron’s Apple House boasts 11 different kinds of pies, including staples blackberry, blueberry, peach, apple and sweet potato. Gina Aaron said the market actually produces 18 different varieties of pies and makes sure to have 11 to chose from at any given time. Mack Aarons also brings a unique atmosphere, with numerous old school lunchboxes adorning the ceiling. At R&A, workers could be seen harvesting the current variety of apples. Rome Beautiful, Granny Smith, Mushtu and Red Delicious are readily available now. Those with a taste for Pink Ladies will have to wait another month or so. At Red Apple Barn, operator Marvin Pritchett showed Long around Little Bend Orchard, where his family developed the Pritchett Golden apple variety. Red Apple Barn has added a hilltop events venue, a small barn to host weddings and other occasions. To see photos from Mr. Long’s apple tour, visit

GFB News Alert page 6 of 16 4-H & FFA COMPETITIONS, CONCERTS HIGHLIGHT GA NATIONAL FAIR The Band Perry and Lynrd Skynrd are the featured musical acts at the 2016 Georgia National Fair, Oct. 6-16. The 27th annual fair has many new and exciting performers, entertainment, livestock shows and food vendors. Georgia Farm Bureau is one of five major sponsors for the fair, which features more than 600 FFA and 4-H students competing in livestock shows. More than 2,500 goats, lambs, hogs and cattle. The Georgia National Fair features new attractions like The Fritters, Louie the T-Rex, Zu Zu African Acrobats, Page’s White Tigers, Kid’s Science Safari, and more. Each of these performers can be enjoyed without additional ticket costs onsite during the 2016 Georgia National Fair. Paid gate admission gives fairgoers access to an abundance of complimentary entertainment, as well as the return of many livestock competitors, creative entries submitted by 4-H and FFA exhibitors, and beautiful homemade items which showcase Georgia artists. The Fair opens Oct. 6 at 3 p.m. Free admission is available to military service members and veterans. The fair will offer discounted admission, armband days and specialty days. For more information on how to qualify or receive some of the special discounts please check out the fair website at or download the fair app by searching Georgia National Fair in your app store. Updates, special announcements, and daily information are also available at the Georgia National Fair Facebook page. Advance-purchase tickets for the Georgia National Fair are $9. Two-day passes are $16 and season passes are $65 each. The Band Perry will perform in Reaves Arena on Oct. 8 at 7:30 p.m. with their opening act Jordan Rager. On Oct 15 at 7:30 p.m. the electrifying band Lynyrd Skynyrd will perform in Reaves Arena with The Curt Towne Band as the opening act. Tickets are still available online. Ticket price is $40 each. In addition to the paid concerts several concerts by well-known entertainers will be featured on the newly designed Georgia National Stage. The Ohio Players perform on Oct. 6, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on Oct. 10, Blues Traveler on Oct. 11, Boyz II Men on Oct. 12 and Old Dominion on Oct. 13. These concerts are included with gate admission for all guests. Each performance will begin at 7 p.m. with an opening performer each night.

GFB News Alert page 7 of 16 SUNBELT EXPO HAS SOMETHING FOR FARMERS OF ALL TYPES Whether you’re a large, fulltime farmer or a small, weekend hobby farmer, the Sunbelt Agricultural Expo is an event you don’t want to miss, so make plans now to attend this year’s event Oct. 18-20 in Moultrie, Ga. More than 1,200 exhibitors will showcase the latest in farming technology and rural lifestyle information in the 100-acre exhibit area. Visitors can ride a tram from the exhibit area to the fields where cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans, and hay will be harvested at the show’s 600-acre working research farm. John McCormick of Screven County is vying with finalists from nine other states to be named the 2016 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year. McCormick, who was announced as the Georgia winner in March, grows row crops on 1,040 acres near Sylvania, Ga. South Carolina is the 2016 Expo Spotlight State. The South Carolina Department of Agriculture, South Carolina Farm Bureau, Clemson College of Agriculture Forestry & Life Sciences and Clemson Public Service & Agriculture will host the state’s exhibit titled “Planting Innovation, Growing Diversity,” located in the Spotlight State Building, the Clemson Building and the outdoor area between the two buildings. There will be numerous demonstrations and interactive displays in the exhibit including food tasting stations, the S.C. 4-H Shooting Sports Trailer, a calving simulator, and a John Deere tractor reassembled by Clemson students to show the inner workings of the machine. The Expo Cattle Exhibit will feature educational sessions each day of the show from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. At 12:30 p.m. every day, Dr. Lee Jones, with the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Jason Smith with UGA Extension, will discuss what farmers need to know about upcoming changes in antibiotic availability and use in animal feeds as the federal Veterinary Feed Directive goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017. Other speakers will address growing forages, the effects of cow health and body weight on reproduction and the cattle industry outlook. Be sure to stop by the Georgia Agriculture Building at the main gate to visit with Georgia Farm Bureau leaders and staff to learn about all the benefits your Farm Bureau membership offers and to see what our organization is doing for farmers. The Georgia Farm Monitor will tape its cooking segment “Meals from the Field” with Ray D’Alessio & Marcia Crawley at 11 a.m. on Oct. 19. The Hoss Tools Sustainable Living Center will offer attendees interested in planting a backyard garden the chance to try out Hoss garden tools, such as wheel hoes and garden seeders. There will also be numerous speakers at the living center. Lisa Mason Zeigler, a cut-flower farmer from Virginia who has been growing flowers for florists since 1998, will discuss organic gardening. Laura Kahles, with Field & Forest Products, a certified organic mushroom spawn company, will discuss growing Oyster mushrooms on ag byproducts. Fredando Jackson, known as Farmer Fredo, from Plains, Ga., will discuss the art of container vegetable gardening. Greg Key, who founded Hoss Toools in 2009, will discuss techniques for preparing your garden to plant, planting seeds and transplants, and maintaining your garden to reduce weeds and disease pressure. For a complete schedule of Expo events, visit

GFB News Alert page 8 of 16 MORE GA COUNTIES RECEIVE DISASTER DESIGNATION DUE TO DROUGHT In a disaster declaration issued on Sept. 29, Baldwin, Bibb, Hancock, Houston, Jones, Peach, Taliaferro, Twiggs and Wilkinson counties received designation from the USDA as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by a recent drought. Farmers and ranchers in Bleckley, Crawford, Dooly, Glascock, Greene, Jasper, Johnson, Laurens, Macon, Monroe, Oglethorpe, Pulaski, Putnam, Taylor, Warren, Washington and Wilkes counties qualified for USDA disaster assistance because they are contiguous to a county that is a primary disaster area. Since July 6, a total of 92 Georgia counties have been declared eligible for USDA disaster assistance because of drought, including 70 counties that have received primary disaster declarations. Farmers in counties named either primary disaster areas or contiguous counties are eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity. Other FSA programs that can provide assistance, but do not require a disaster declaration, include the Emergency Conservation Program, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock Program, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program and the Tree Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for more information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at USDA ISSUES PAYMENTS UNDER ARC, PLC PROGRAMS The USDA announced on Oct. 4 that many of the 1.7 million farms enrolled in either the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs will receive safetynet payments due to market downturns during the 2015 crop year. The 2014 Farm Bill authorized the ARC-PLC safety net to trigger and provide financial assistance when decreases in revenues or crop prices occur. The ARC and PLC programs primarily allow producers to continue to produce for the market by making payments on a percentage of historical base production, limiting the impact on production decisions. Payments are made to producers who enrolled base acres of barley, corn, grain sorghum, lentils, oats, peanuts, dry peas, soybeans, wheat and canola. In the upcoming months, payments will be announced after marketing year average prices are published by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service for the remaining covered commodities. These include long and medium grain rice (except for temperate Japonica rice), which will be announced in November, remaining oilseeds and chickpeas, which will be announced in December, and temperate Japonica rice, which will be announced in early February 2017. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity. The Budget Control Act of 2011, passed by Congress, requires USDA to reduce 2015 ARC and PLC payments by 6.8 percent. For more information, producers are encouraged to visit their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office. To find a local FSA office, visit

GFB News Alert page 9 of 16 GETTING READY TO TRADE WITH CUBA EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories by GFB News Editor Jennifer Whittaker, who recently traveled to Cuba with the American Agricultural Editors Association. Whittaker will share travel details, observations on Cuban culture and agriculture, and trade implications that might come from normalized relations with Cuba. For years, U.S. agriculture and other business groups have been talking about Cuba and the potential trade opportunities she offers if Congress were to lift the embargo we’ve enforced since the early 1960s after Fidel Castro nationalized U.S. That talk has only intensified since Dec. 17, 2014, when the President Obama and Cuba’s President Raul Castro announced our countries would restore diplomatic relations. The United States and Cuba have been walking a tenuous tightrope since 2000 when the U.S. passed the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TRSA), which relaxed the full trade embargo we’ve had in place against our island neighbor since 1962. The TRSA allows the U.S. to export food, medicine and medical equipment to Cuba and certain other countries, if bought with cash. It doesn’t provide a legal framework for the U.S. to import agricultural products from Cuba. A firsthand look From Sept. 19 to the morning of Sept. 23, I had the chance to visit Cuba with a delegation of 23 other ag journalists from across the U.S. affiliated with the American Agricultural Editors Association (AAEA). The purpose of the trip was to meet with Cuban officials to learn about the current status of agricultural trade with Cuba, future opportunities for trade should the U.S. Congress vote to lift the embargo, Cuban agriculture and Cuban culture. Numerous ag groups, chamber of commerce and political delegations, including several from Georgia, have visited Cuba in recent years to explore trade opportunities, but the AAEA delegation was the first group comprised solely of ag journalists to visit. When I received the AAEA email last January seeking applicants I knew I had to apply because of all the press I’ve been reading and because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about for myself, especially since Georgia is positioned to benefit from trade because of our poultry production and our ports in Savannah and Brunswick. Four full days on the ground by no means make me an expert on Cuba, but I do have a better understanding than I did before. The visit was primarily limited to Havana, with a trip about an hour east to the province of Mayabeque to visit the Agrarian University of Havana. In a series of articles to run in future issues of GFB News Alert, I plan to share my observations of Cuba’s culture and economy, trade opportunities that exist for agriculture and the status of Cuban agriculture. Traveling to Havana Our delegation was kept in a tourist bubble, by which I mean we stayed at a wonderful, historic state-owned hotel as opposed to staying in a privately operated bed & breakfast in a resident’s home; we traveled in comfort in a modern tourist bus as opposed to the crowded public buses; and we ate at restaurants privately owned by entrepreneurs who serve scrumptious meals to tourists I’d venture to guess aren’t served at state-owned restaurants.

GFB News Alert page 10 of 16 CUBA, continued from previous page. I’m not complaining or criticizing – I think this is definitely the way to go for a first time visit and probably subsequent visits, unless you speak Spanish fluently and are an experienced international traveler or have Cuban connections you trust to help you make more adventurous accommodations. I just mention this so you understand Cuba has a flourishing tourist infrastructure that allows visitors to experience their island in comfort. Canadians and Europeans have been visiting for years. Thanks to our trip facilitator, Paul Johnson, president of Chicago Foods International, a food distributor he established to focus on trade with Cuba, our AAEA group had more opportunity to see glimpses of every day life in Havana than the average tourist. Johnson has been traveling to Cuba since 1995 and lived there for a year in 1999 to research his Masters thesis on the Economic Development of Havana. He’s also married to a native Cuban. I traveled to Cuba with as open a mind as possible. I did some basic research so I’d know things to be on the lookout for and have a feel for where I was headed. Yet I still wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at Jose Marti Airport. Our group began checking in for our chartered flight at 5:30 a.m. The 120-passenger chartered American Airlines plane was filled with other American tourists, Cubans who’d been visiting the U.S. and Cuban-Americans visiting their family. On the flight down I sat by an older gentleman I’m guessing was in his late 60s and reminded me of the actor Cheech Marin. He spoke little English. I speak only the most basic Spanish, so our conversation was limited. In broken Spanglish I asked if he had been visiting family. “Tu visitas familia?” I asked politely. He smiled and said yes. When I fumbled to ask if he visits his family often, “Tu visitas tu familia mucho?’ he teared up and shook his head no. Feeling awkward and empathizing with his pain, all I could say was “I’m sorry.” We limited the rest of our flight to smiles, and he helped me wrestle my heavy backpack from beneath the seat to the space between us. Since 2009 the U.S. has allowed Cuban-Americans to visit their family in Cuba as often as they like. I’m not sure how the visiting process works in reverse. First impressions Our AAEA group debarked our plane straight onto the runway, boarded a crowded bus filled past capacity and were shuttled to a building a good distance from the runway where we went through customs and claimed our luggage. Not having traveled overseas since college, going through customs in a country with which the U.S. has strained relations was a little unnerving. I hadn’t anticipated feeling this way until I saw the customs stations we would go through, which were booths with walls that obstructed my view of the customs agent until the person in front of me went through a closed door to whoknew-where and I could advance in line. I suddenly understood how cattle may feel when we send them through a chute to be loaded into a trailer or worked on. Jamie Johansen, a member of the AAEA delegation, went through the line ahead of me. I was trying to observe everything I could about the process so I’d know what to do. After taking her passport the customs agent told her to pose for a photo. She instinctively smiled and was immediately told not to smile. She tried to comply but then got tickled and told him “I can’t not smile.” Somehow she managed to produce a solemn countenance. The preference for not smiling in photos seems to be limited to the customs agents because our tour guide smiled when she posed for photos for us.

GFB News Alert page 11 of 16 CUBA, continued from previous page. Knowing I wasn’t supposed to smile made my customs experience easier. My only snag was failing to see which door Jamie exited the booth. I mistakenly tried to open the door to the agent’s stall instead of the one that deposited me into the security line, but he leaned over his counter and gestured to the right door. Second cultural observation was seeing the 20-something year old women working the security line wearing black fishnet stockings with their official uniforms of miniskirts and suit jackets. By Tuesday I felt comfortable enough to ask our tour guide, Meylin Bernal, if the girls were required to wear those stockings. “No. It’s just a cultural thing,” she said, Friday morning traveling home, I noticed one girl wearing a kakhi pantsuit. So I guess they do have options. Meylin, who works for San Cristobal, one of Cuba’s state-owned tour companies, was candid about the state of life in Havana, not in a critical way, but with a forthright, this-is-how-it-is, Iwant-you-to-understand-my- country demeanor. Listening to her talk during the 30-minute ride from the airport into Havana I could tell she loves her country. When I asked her later in the trip if she ever thought about leaving she said no. When I asked if that’s because she’s committed to staying and being part of the change that’s been bubbling up since the 1990s to shift Cuba’s economy more towards entrepreneurship and an improved quality of life, her eyes and face lit up with a broad smile and she nodded her head. I felt she honestly answered the questions we asked and genuinely welcomed us as Americans. She was a very intelligent, witty young woman in her early 30s. I overheard her tell another AAEA member that her career options when she graduated from university were to teach at the college or high school level or go into the tourism profession, which she did because she felt she had an obligation to help provide for her family and being a tour guide is more lucrative. Sounds like a career plight teachers in the U.S. face, doesn’t it? Cuba has two currencies An important thing to understand is that Cuba operates with two currencies. There are National Cuban Pesos residents use (CUP) and Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) pronounced “kooks,” primarily used by tourists. CUCs are accepted everywhere in Cuba but CUPs aren’t. American credit cards are not accepted, so it’s a cash only experience. The value of one CUC peso is roughly equal to a U.S. dollar, and one U.S. dollar is equal to about 26.5 CUP. Cuba imposes a 10% tax on all foreign currency conversions and an extra 3% tax on U.S. conversions. When I exchanged $100 I got $87 CUCs and about 30 cents in change (CUC value). One CUC is a silver coin about the size of a half dollar. Larger denominations worth 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 CUC are available as paper bills with monuments on them. Paper CUPs have faces of national heroes on them. Cuba is expected to eliminate the extra 3% tax it accesses U.S. currency at some point in the future, Johnson said. Johnson told our group that the average Cuban makes $25 a month from their government salary. “That’s not realistic if you’re living in Havana. If you’re living in Havana you’re not living on just that,” Johnson said. “It costs about $250 a month to get by.”

GFB News Alert page 12 of 16 CUBA, continued from previous page. So how do Cubans make up the difference? Johnson said many Cubans receive money from relatives in the U.S. called remittances. A report released earlier this year by Dr. Luis A. Ribera, associate professor & director at Texas A&M’s Department of Agricultural Economics Center for North American Studies estimates Cubans received $6.3 billion in 2013 - $3.5 billion in merchandise and $2.8 billion in cash. He estimates 90 percent of the money Cubans receive in remittances are used for food. Our tour guide said the Cuban government taxes a percentage of the remittances. Cubans working in the tourist industry have access to CUCs because they’re tipped with them providing another way some supplement their income. These workers – tour guides, hotel staff, servers in privately-owned restaurants and taxi drivers - pay a tax on these tips. If I understood our tour guide correctly, she is expected to share a percentage of her tips with coworkers back in the office. Another way Cubans supplement their income is by bringing items back to sell when they visit the U.S. As I stood with about 300 other people from multiple flights between two baggage carousels waiting for my suitcase to appear, I lost count of the number of large screen tv boxes that went past me on the conveyor belt. I also spotted several bedding sets and a mysterious Home Depot box big enough to hold a small water heater (just a guess based on the squatty cylinder shape of the mystery item). At the time I naively thought people were bringing things back for themselves, but an economist we met with later in the trip set us straight. What led to tense Cuba/U.S. relations? To fully understand the complexity of the U.S. /Cuba relationship we’ve got to briefly revisit our past. This will be important for understanding the delicate dance the U.S. and Cuba are making if we continue moving forward to normalizing diplomatic and trade relations. The U.S. was colonized by England to supply natural resources and ag goods for the folks back home. Cuba, like the U.S. was a colony for Spain. The U.S. broke away from a British monarchy that already had a more democratic common law rooted in the Magna Carta passed by English barons to limit the monarchy’s absolute sovereignty. Cuba, meanwhile, remained under the control of Spain, (with a brief period of English occupation in 1762) until 1898 when the U.S. helped Cuba win its independence in the SpanishCuban-American War. Visit to read a sidebar that more thoroughly explores the U.S. Cuba backstory. A history provided by my Lonely Planet guidebook, explains the U.S. occupied Cuba from 1898 until May 1902 when the island became an independent republic. The U.S. was interested in Cuba to protect its strategic interests in the Panama Canal and secured the naval base in Guantanomo Bay we still occupy today. Many Cubans who fought Spain felt the U.S. was trying to colonize their country rather than support true Cuban independence. The fallout from this period and Cuba’s determination to govern itself as it sees fit without U.S. interference continues to influence Cuban/U.S. relations. A series of Cuban leaders led to the rise of Fulgencio Batista, who presided over the country’s best and worst efforts to establish a democracy in the 1940s and 50s. But in the early 1950s, Batista cut a deal with the American Mafia for a share of their gambling profits in the tourist

GFB News Alert page 13 of 16 CUBA, continued from previous page. resorts and then staged a coup in March 1952 three months before scheduled elections because he thought he would lose. A young lawyer, Fidel Castro, had been due to run against Batista in the 1952 elections. Castro led a rebellion against Batista in 1953 that resulted in his capture and imprisonment, but he was granted amnesty when Batista won elections in 1955. Believing Batista intended to kill him, Castro fled to Mexico where he consulted with Camilo Cienfuegos and Argentine doctor Che Guevara to plan a new attack on Batista that began in 1956 and ended on New Year’s Day1959 when Batista fled to the Dominican Republic. In 1960 Castro nationalized U.S. assets in Cuba, which led the U.S. to impose an export embargo to Cuba that year. Castro also nationalized private property causing many wealthy Cubans who disagreed with Castro’s political philosophy to flee the country. When the U.S. stopped importing Cuban sugar, Castro began selling it to the Soviet Union for funds. After the U.S. backed Cuban citizens in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Castro in 1961 called the Bay of Pigs, we declared a full trade embargo on Cuba and relations rapidly went down hill. In 1962 medium-range nuclear missiles were discovered in Cuba installed by the Soviet Union, which led to the Cuban Missile Crisis. During the following decades Cuba was supported by the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991. The face of change in Cuba Cuba refers to the economic crisis it experienced in the 1990s after the Soviet Union collapsed as the Special Period. Economic necessity prompted the Cuban government to loosen restrictions on private businesses in 1993. Cuban citizens could legally operate restaurants in their homes for tourists and explore other entrepreneurial endeavors. Since 2006 when Raul Castro began leading Cuba after his brother, Fidel, became ill, Cuba has become more business-friendly. “We are still the same country with a different perspective,” our tour guide Meylin said of the changes. On our first day in Havana, after a sprint through historic Old Havana, which dates back to 1519, the AAEA group ate lunch at El Figaro Restaurant, the first of eight paladars (a Spanish word that means palate and is used to indicate a restaurant is privately owned) where we had lunch and dinner during our four-day trip. The food at each restaurant was excellent, equal to what you’d expect to find at a very nice restaurant in the States. El Figaro is located on a street locally called "Barbershop Alley" in tribute to a 46-year-old barber Gillberto Valledare, who was among the first Havanians to go into private business for himself and who has inspired revitalization on the street. Valledare, who once cut hair for the state, has readily embraced working for himself and paying the Cuban government a tax to do so. “I was one of the first to change from the government sector to the private sector in the late 1990s,” Valledare said through an interpreter. “It’s important for you to know that as I was one of the first to work in the private sector I had to go through different stages. From being misunderstood, we [private business owners] are more today, and the political will is helping us. The most important thing is to work and show that you can.” Valledare said he believes the economic crisis has made people lose their family and human values.

GFB News Alert page 14 of 16 CUBA, continued from previous page. “The key is to understand how culture is an important key for social benefits and economic benefits,” Valledare said. “We can recover faster from economic damage than value damage. The crisis of the world today is more than economic. It is a values crisis.” Five years ago Valledare, who is called “papito” (daddy) by his neighbors in Old Havana, started a school to train young people in his neighborhood to become barbers and hairdressers. He teaches in the morning and cuts hair at his salon in the afternoon. Students at the Arte Corte Academia attend classes for free for a year in a state-owned building that Valledare is restoring with his own money. “I started something that motivated others to come and volunteer and teach at the school. We all can give a little bit to society. It can be money, knowledge or your time,” Valledare said. “I always strive to help people to understand how important young people are. We have to teach values.” Valledare thinks long-term and has recruited English-speaking interpreters, including our tour guide Meylin, to help his students hone their English so they can cut the hair of tourists, foreign business people or diplomats. “I am a dreamer. In all of this there is misunderstanding. I’ve been misunderstood from society and from my family. They used to say I was nuts.” When asked to elaborate on how he was misunderstood, Valledare answered through an interpreter, “I’ve always been criticized because I’ve been successful. They [critics] ask ‘How much does he make?’ It’s not just about how much I make, but it’s also about how much I don’t make.” In recognition of his entrepreneurial efforts, Valledare was one of five business owners selected to meet with President Obama during his March visit to Cuba. “I help people so they can help me help other people,” Valledare said. In the next installment of this series we’ll look at U.S. ag commodities currently being exported to Cuba and possible opportunities if the embargo is lifted. Visit and to see photos of Historic Havana and everyday life. Visit to meet a Cuban entrepreneur.

GFB News Alert page 15 of 16 VOTING FOR AMERICAN PECAN COUNCIL Oct. 7 Deadline to cast votes Qualified pecan growers and shellers have until Oct. 7 to cast votes in the election for seats on the American Pecan Council (APC), which will administer the new federal marketing order for pecans. The ballots were mailed on Sept. 16. There are three growing regions (West, Central and East, which includes Georgia). Each region is allotted the following number of seats on the APC: Two large growers (defined as those who produce pecans on 176 acres or more), one small grower (smaller than 176 acres), one large sheller (defined as those who handle more than 12.5 million pounds per year) and one small sheller (less than 12.5 million pounds per year). The nominated growers in the East region are: Large growers - Angie Ellis, Randy Hudson, Trent Mason and Buck Paulk; Small growers – Clay Anderson, Randolph Erving, Claire Powell and Molly Willis. Nominated shellers in the East region are: Large shellers – Brandon Harrell and Jeff Worn; Small shellers – Larry Wilson and Kenny Tarver. Producers or shellers who have not received a ballot by Sept. 26 are asked to contact the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The contacts are Christian Nissen ( and Jennie Varela ( For more information visit the AMS site at 2016 GEORGIA NATIONAL FAIR Oct. 6-16 Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter Perry The award-winning Georgia National Fair features livestock and horse shows, youth exhibits, home and fine arts competitions, family entertainment and Midway rides and games. Major concerts include The Band Perry and Lynyrd Skynyrd. For more information visit AFBF WHITE-REINHARDT MINI-GRANTS, SCHOLARSHIPS Oct. 15 deadline to apply The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture White-Reinhardt Fund for Education offers two opportunities for counties to receive funding. The White-Reinhardt Mini-Grant Program is offered to county Farm Bureaus in amounts up to $500 for classroom education programs for grades K-12 to initiate new programs or expand existing programs to additional grade levels or new subject areas. Applications are online. Visit for more information. The White-Reinhardt Scholarship Program provides up to $1,500 in travel funds to educators employed by a public or private school system or volunteers who actively participate in classroom ag literacy programs or events to attend the 2017 National Ag in the Classroom Conference. To apply visit County Farm Bureaus may have their application reviewed by sending a draft of their application to Donna Rocker no later than Oct. 1. For help in completing the application, contact Rocker at 2016 SUNBELT AG EXPO Oct. 18-20 Spence Field Moultrie North America’s largest farm show features field demonstrations, the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year announcement, and more than 1,200 exhibitors. Tickets are $10 per person per day. Children under 10 are admitted free with parent. Multi-day tickets are $20. For more information visit

GFB News Alert page 16 of 16 AGRICULTURE LABOR RELATIONS FORUM & TRAINING Nov. 1-2 UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center Tifton Georgia Farm Bureau and other ag organizations are collaborating with the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA) for this forum, which will provide an in-depth overview and training on labor rules and regulations for growers, office managers, and other office personnel who handle the administrative and human resource reporting duties for farm and business operations. The conference will provide attendees with resources to comply with existing labor rules and regulations. This conference is not a discussion about immigration policy reform. Anticipated topics include: Preparing for a wage and hour audit; what’s new with worker protection standards; how to decide whether to use the H-2A program; clarification of the I-9 process; transportation guidelines and employer health care compliance. Forum registration costs are $150. For more information call the GFVGA at 706-845-8200. ONGOING FARM BUREAU-SPONSORED FARMERS MARKETS DODGE COUNTY FARMERS MARKET Saturdays Dodge County Courthouse 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Eastman This open-air market, sponsored in part by Dodge County Farm Bureau, features locally produced meats, vegetables, eggs and artisanal crafts. For more information contact market manager T.I. Papel at 478-374-5895 or, or visit MONROE FARMERS MARKET Saturday Court Street 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Monroe This market, sponsored in part by Walton County Farm Bureau, will feature fresh produce and goods from local farmers, work from local artisans and family friendly activities. For more information visit ROCKDALE/DEKALB FARM BUREAU FARMERS MARKET Tuesdays and Saturdays 8 a.m. – noon Thursdays 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. The Rockdale/DeKalb Farm Bureau Farmers Market will be open at 1400 Parker Rd. SE in Conyers. The public is invited to stop by and shop for fresh locally grown vegetables, dairy products, crafts and more! For more information contact the Rockdale/DeKalb County Farm Bureau office at 770-922-3566. SHIELDS-ETHRIDGE HERITAGE FARM CULTIVATORS’ MARKET Oct. 15 and Nov. 19 Shields-Ethridge Heritage Farm 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. 2355 Ethridge Rd. Jefferson Jackson County Farm Bureau (JCFB) is sponsoring this monthly open-air market that will allow local farmers and entrepreneurs to sell products they make or grow in a festival atmosphere. Market will be held rain or shine. The Shields-Ethridge Heritage Farm is an outdoor ag museum that functions as an educational and interpretative facility. Proceeds from the market will be used for restoration projects at the farm. If you are interested in having a booth at the market, contact JCFB Office Manager Denise Temple at or call 706-367-8877 or visit to complete an application online.

Georgia Farm Bureau News Alert - October 5, 2016  

This week in the GFB News Alert... the GFB Foundation is offering $60,000 in college scholarships, 4-H and FFA competitions and concerts hi...

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