Georgia ranks as the top poultry production state in the nation. The industry employs more than 88,000 in the state and generates more than $4.3 billion in farm gate value and an overall annual economic impact to the state of more than $28 billion. Three out of four Georgia counties are involved in poultry and egg production.
Expansion of the poultry industry into counties unaccustomed to vertically integrated agricultural production has drawn voices of concern to and within county commissions who establish county-based poultry-specific regulations. To help county commissions establish fair and equitable ordinances as they relate to poultry production, University of Georgia (UGA) Extension expanded its poultry program efforts.
UGA poultry scientist Casey Ritz said one challenge for counties is people moving from urban and suburban into rural counties.
“People move to rural areas without an understanding of agriculture and its scope in their new home counties,” said Ritz. “Rural counties are changing, but agriculture needs to remain profitable and viable.”
County agents, guided by Extension poultry scientists, provide information to county commission members on topics including modern poultry production housing, water usage estimates, by-product management, and emissions and air quality. In the last few years, Georgia Extension provided multiple counties with assistance as their respective commissions worked to write or amend poultry-related ordinances.
“Public hearings can be passionate with both sides advocating strongly their positions,” he said. “Georgia Extension is in essence a neutral party offering objective, science-based information so county governments can make decisions that benefit the entire county.”
He added that Extension information and resources have enhanced county commissions’ abilities to deliberate potential poultry-specific ordinances targeting both poultry production siting and management practices.
University of Georgia poultry science specialists offered important information on facility siting, management and environmental stewardship at an in-person education event. Sponsored by the Northwest Georgia Regional County Commission Association, the event brought commissions, planning board members, city planners, poultry companies, and concerned citizens together.
Additionally, UGA poultry specialists continue to develop presentations, publications and ordinance summaries to assist county Extension agriculture agents working with county commissions. These educational materials provide county agents with more concise and timely assistance and allow them to respond more rapidly to county commission needs.
“Georgia Extension is educating county government leaders including elected officials and professional staff on modern poultry production,” said Ritz. “The knowledge we provide enables them to create measured growth opportunities for the poultry industry while addressing citizen concerns.”
Top photo: Group of broiler chickens. Courtesy of Adobe Stock.