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Agriculture is here to stay' - Zippy Duvall speaks at agribusiness luncheon
Zippy Duvall, president of the Georgia Farm Bureau, speaks at Thursday's Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Luncheon at R.J.'s Seafood & Steaks.
    Zippy Duvall brought the essence of farming to life Thursday as he spoke  to guests at the Statesboro-Bulloch County Agribusiness Luncheon. Duvall, president of the Georgia Farm Bureau, spoke of important agricultural issues in Georgia, driving the point home  that agriculture will survive and continue to be the backbone of the country.
    The luncheon, held at RJ’s Seafood and Steaks, marked the sixth annual celebration of Agriculture Awareness Week, March 16-20.
    Dr. Ron Shiffler, chamber board chairman, welcomed guests and shared bits of knowledge about agriculture in Georgia and Bulloch County, including the facts that agriculture is the state’s largest industry; contributes 16 percent of Georgia’s overall economic activity, and that Bulloch County ranks third in the state’s 159 counties regarding acreage devoted to farming (about 206,000 acres.)
    Duvall painted a picture as he described his trip to Statesboro, and asked guests to “close their eyes” and imagine taking a tour of the state, from the mountains to the rolling hills, to the flatlands and coastal areas.
    “We go from mountains, to sandy earth, all the way to the ocean,” he said. “We have every feature (of agriculture) God created to enjoy.”
    He encouraged farmers and assured listeners farming would survive bad economy and other challenges. “As bad as things seem to be ... things are going to get better, because we are Americans,” he said.
    But change is often good and farmers need to be willing to go with the flow and make changes in order to survive, he said.
    “We like what we are doing so much we are not willing to look outside the fence rows” at new and different ideas, he said.
    He mentioned water issues and the rising incidents of metal theft on farms. “We have got to get a hold on theft out on the farms,” he said. “It is a hindrance and we have got to get a hold on that.”
    People come to Georgia because of its rural beauty and its agriculture, and those involved must continue to fight to preserve agriculture and its land, he said. Again, he encouraged farmers to look upward: “Farmers will make it through this trying time.”
    He spoke of the peanut butter recall due to salmonella and how it dealt a hard blow to peanut farmers. But he said Americans forget, and soon the issue will pass.
    “It is not the farmer’s fault,” he said. “It’s the people between us and the consumer who control our destiny. The peanut industry has been hurt terribly.”
    Duvall spoke of why he loves farming: “the fresh earth smell ... this time of  year... there’s just something about smells and farming that turns you on and makes the juices run,” he said. “We do it because we love it. Every inch of my farm is my  home. It just becomes a part of you, and you can’t help it.”
    He noted that “half the people here (at the luncheon) are young people” and said he is encouraged to see the interest in agriculture reaching the younger generation.
    “I’m telling you, agriculture is here to stay,” he said. “We will not ship its jobs overseas, we will not lose our flavor, and we will not be thrown out by other industries,” he said. “If you hear someone complaining about farming ... the smells, flies ... ask them to complain about it when  their mouth is full.”
 Mistaken identity
    Duvall also shared with guests a tale about being mistaken for AIG chairman Edward Liddy while at the  Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC recently.
     Associated Press writer Laurie Kellman wrote: “The crowd of reporters awaiting Liddy’s arrival around lunch time descended mistakenly on Duvall ... who was in town doing bureau business and was unaware of what he had stumbled into.”
    Reporters swarmed him and followed him as he tried to duck away, thinking he was interfering in something important, Duvall told luncheon guests Thursday.
    According to Kellman’s account of the incident, reporters fired questions as photographers snapped shots:  “Was he prepared for the hearing? Did he think that ‘they’ would be fair? Someone else asked something about bonuses and bailouts.
    “Duvall gazed around at the media with sound booms hovering and camera lights glaring. He issued a helpless grin at others in his entourage.”
    Duvall said Thursday he was totally confused until someone explained the mix-up.

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