Catching Up With…Will Bentley

President, Georgia Agribusiness Council

What is the Georgia Agribusiness Council?

We’re a trade association founded in 1966 by a group of ag leaders to advance the business of agriculture, from the legislative process to economic development through environmental stewardship and ag education. We’ve really stuck with that mission from the very beginning.

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Why is the Georgia Agribusiness Council important?

Because agriculture is important in Georgia. We partner with commodity groups and with other ag trade associations to fight on behalf of our farmers and ag businesses every day during the legislative session, as well as in Washington D.C., throughout the year. Our farmers and agribusinesses, they just want to focus on growing food and fiber for our nation; they don’t want to work on policy. That’s where organizations like ours step in.

Tell us about the ag industry in Georgia.

Agriculture is Georgia’s most important industry. The last economic impact report from the University of Georgia has the ag industry accounting for $73.2 billion of economic impact to the state. One in seven Georgians work in some ag- and food-related job. All of that goes to make sure that Georgians and Americans have food on their plates three times a day, and their food is safe and secure and grown in the best way possible.

What are the largest commodities in Georgia?

Our No. 1 commodity would be poultry broilers. We’re a chicken state. Next would be cotton, peanuts, timber. We’re also big in beef cattle, pecans, blueberries, greenhouse and ornamental horticulture.

What’s something that might surprise readers about the ag industry in Georgia?

These days, technology plays a huge part to make sure that we’re efficient when we’re using water, when we’re using other crop inputs – fertilizers or pest control. We have some of the best agribusinesses and companies in the state producing that technology. And we have cutting-edge farmers utilizing that technology to make sure that they’re using less and producing more across the board.

What bills were you watching in the legislature this year?

Increasing truck weights for ag and forestry was extremely important to us. Georgia had the lowest truck weights of all of our neighbors in the Southeast. We were glad to see the legislature increase those truck weights, the variance up to 88,000 pounds for ag- and forestry-related products. That will level the playing field for us to be competitive with our neighbors.

SB 220, from [Agriculture] Commissioner Tyler Harper, dealing with ag land conservation. We see development encroaching on a lot of rural areas. This bill will be a tool for farmers to conserve their land for generations to come and continue to be able to farm that land.

What are some of the challenges facing agribusinesses right now?

Labor would be No. 1, 2, and 3, really. Labor is one of the largest costs to producing food and fiber. We’d love to see a fix on the national level for our guest-worker program.

What’s the future of agriculture in Georgia?

Georgia has an opportunity to continue to be the breadbasket of the country as far as growing produce and poultry and other livestock. I’m very optimistic about ag technology, precision agriculture, which continues to provide opportunities for farmers to increase their efficiency and productivity. In rural Georgia, agriculture is more than just the top industry. It’s the lifeblood of the entire community. I’ve seen in the last several years some great opportunities in these communities through ag technology and economic development around agribusiness. I think the future is very bright for our industry.

Will Bentley joined the Georgia Agribusiness Council in 2018. He previously served as the executive vice president
of the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association and the Georgia Beef Board. He lives in Macon.
These are edited highlights from an interview.


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