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Ocilla farmer wants ag commissioner job
Tyler Harper
Tyler Harper - photo by Image submitted

RINCON  — Tyler Harper’s main campaign message is simple.

The lone Republican candidate for Georgia agriculture commissioner says, “Sometimes it takes a farmer.”

“Farmers are pretty resourceful and always doing what they can to work through the issues that they are presented with,” Harper said during a Friday telephone call with the Herald. “You are always faced with challenges in agriculture and on the farm, and farmers find ways to navigate through that and work through that to make a crop every year. That’s what me mean by, ‘Sometimes it takes a farmer.”

Harper is a state senator and 7th-generation farmer from Ocilla. Only one of his three potential Democrat opponents in the general election are farmers.

“You have to be a jack of all trades to be a farmer,” said Harper, who uses the same tractor that his grandfather did..

If elected, Harper intends to build on the successes of current Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, who is seeking the GOP nomination in a U.S. Senate race.

“I think Mr. Black has done a good job and I think that is one of the advantages of following in behind somebody like him,” Harper said. 

“You are taking the reins of an agency that is in a good place to build off of and move forward, and move into into the next generation of agriculture, so to speak.”

Investment in the next generation of farmers and agribusinesses is foundational plank in Harper’s platform.

“That is vitally important the the future and the sustainability of the ag industry in our state,” he said. “Agriculture is the number one industry in the state. It’s the number one economic driver in our state.

“It’s the backbone of our economy.”

With more than $74 billion in economic impact every year, agribusiness is Georgia’s leading industry. Georgia is perenially the No. 1 state in the nation in the production of peanuts, chickens, pecans, blueberries and spring onions. It also ranks near the top when it comes to cotton, watermelons, peaches, eggs, cucumbers, sweet corn, bell peppers and tomates.

“We’ve been ranked the number one state in the nation to do business eight years in a row,” Harper said. “I submit to you that we couldn’t be the number one state to do business if the number one indusstry in our state wasn’t successful. The way we ensure that is successful is by investing in the next generation.

“As commissioner, we are going to find ways to investest in the next generation and human capital but also technological investments.”

Harper said he will partner with schools and institutions of higher learning across the state to ensure that a cutting-edge, world-class agricultural education is available to students who want to learn the trade. He also said that Georgia must identify and cultivate emerging technologies and techniques that put farmers ahead of the curve.

The candidate said agriculture plays a role in national security, making it crucial that the government make sure farmers have the resources and tools they need to succeed.

“If we give them that ability, we are able to produce more of our own food and fiber here within our own borders, which allows us to be more secure as a country,” Haroer said. “I think this issue alone is starting to show the consumer why agriculture is as important as it is.”

Relying on other states for food, fiber and shelter is unwise, Harper said. It can lead to empty shelves.

“We’ve got to make sure that we have the right policies in place that allow our producers and farmers to be successful,” he said. “By doing that, we have a supply chain that is safe and secure but also sustainable. The supply chain is something of a concern and we’ve got to work to fix that.

“We are going to fix that as the next commissioner.”

Harper is an advocate of free markets. He said he will work to eliminate unfair trade deals that put producers in Mexico and China ahead of producers in Georgia. He added that Georgia producers should never be subject to unfair federal regulation or unfair tariffs and embargoes. 

The candidate wants to enhance Georgia Grown, a division of the Georgia Department of Agriculture that helps grow agribusinesses. It was initiated by Black about a decade ago.

“I think it has really given us a strong foundation to build on and we look forward to doing that,” Harper said. “I think one of the ways we can continue to ensure that agriculture in our state will be successful is by putting our farmer-producer and the consumer first. The way you put them first is by enhancing and building on programs like Georgia Grown.”

Harper wants to get more Georgia products in the state’s school cafeterias.

“They have done an awesome job of doing that and we want to build on that success,” he said. “Hopefully, we will get to where (Georgia producers) are sources of a good majority of the food products in our school systems across the state ...”

Use of the Georgia Grown label on products made here is important to boost the state’s agricultural notoriety and consumption of Georgia products around the world and at home, Harper said. He wants to ensure that all the state’s commodities — timber, fruits, vegetables, traditional row crops, livestock and poultry, as well as urban agricultural products — continue to thrive. 

“Those are awesome opportunities for us to showcase what we can do here in Georgia, especially from an agricultural perspective whether it’s food, fiber, shelter or whatever it may be,” Harper said.  “... (Consumers) can take pride in knowing that they are supporting a Georgia family, a Georgia business and a lot of times a Georgia farmer.”