Georgia Plant Society Gives Credibility to State Crop Advisors
Sunday, October 16th, 2011
For 60 years, the Georgia Plant Food Educational Society has created a more seamless and efficient knowledge exchange among farmers, researchers and the state’s agricultural industry.
“One thing we do is facilitate continuing education for certified crop advisors,” said Jimmy Champion, current president of the society. “The crop advisor program is actually an offshoot of the American Society of Agronomy, and it’s one of the things we use to help people stay up to date.”
The Certified Crop Advisor program helps establish credibility for those who make recommendations to farmers. Requirements for certification are developed by the society and qualify as continuing education credits.
The program’s standards are high. At the outset, applicants must have sufficient experience in some agricultural endeavor. They must take an exam with four areas of competency: crop management, soil and water, pest management and nutrient management.
“There’s also a regional as well as a national exam,” Champion said. “You have to pass both of those.”
After passing the exams, applicants must furnish letters of recommendation. “Then, once you’re in the program, you have to obtain 40 hours of training every two years to maintain certification,” he said.
Who make up this group? Champion says most crop advisors are employees, managers, sales people or farm-supply dealers; some have backgrounds in research and others specialize in bringing new technologies, such as precision agriculture, to farmers’ fields.
The program is a diverse, reliable network, he said, to share information and provide Georgia dealers and growers with a conduit to the latest research and technology – in a timely manner.
“Basically, what we try to do is promote the sound use of fertilizer,” Champion says. “Sixty years ago, the fertilizer people were saying that the universities weren’t being aggressive enough in encouraging people to use fertilizer and shoot for high yields. And that was how the society got started back in 1951. It was to facilitate the communication between the university people, the Georgia Department of Agriculture and industry.”
Over the years, the society’s membership has expanded beyond fertilizer dealers and now includes manufacturers, material suppliers, government agencies and equipment dealers. Safety and efficient use of pesticides remains a primary goal.
“We also try to monitor the market and stay abreast of products that are not feasible or realistic to the consumer. Obviously, we can’t prevent people from selling something, but we can inform others of what will and won’t work based on science and sound agronomic principle.”
The society is a team effort. Champion is on the phone several times a week with someone from the University of Georgia or Cooperative Extension. Dr. Glen Harris, a soil fertility specialist with UGA’s Extension, works closely with the group as its educational advisor.
The society helps Georgia’s youth, too, providing four scholarships a year to undergraduates in agricultural programs and to those who want to work in the industry.
The society is a non-profit organization funded by its members, mostly in the form of membership dues. It gets funding from its meeting registration fees, fundraisers and private donations, too.
“We don’t receive any government funds, nor do we try and sell merchandise,” Champion said. “We do, however, work closely with the Georgia Agribusiness Council.”
The society has two major meetings a year, one in January and one in July. The Certified Crop Advisor program operates throughout the year. The society also sponsors various meetings and events as needed to reinforce issues or trends as defined by the January and July gatherings.
The Georgia Plant Food Educational Society’s website offers access to many resources, such as the group’s history and mission, as well as how to join the society. You’ll also find a copy of their current quarterly newsletter along with an archive of past issues. You’ll also find a schedule of the society’s events and meetings, along with a “Lawmakers” tab that lists Georgia’s congressional Senate and House delegations, along with members of Georgia’s General Assembly, links to various House and Senate agricultural oversight committees and a list of Georgia’s constitutional office holders can be found there.
Check them out at www.georgiaplantfood.org