Georgia’s first new ag leader in 41 years revamps business plan - The Packer

Georgia’s first new ag leader in 41 years revamps business plan

03/21/2011 01:49:39 PM
Jim Offner

“We’re going from a pretty central-controlled area to one where you empower managers to make decisions on the ground,” he said. “That’s a model that works very well in private business, and I believe it can in government circles, as well.”

Upgrades on the terminal market will be scheduled as regularly as budget constraints allow, Black said.

“We’ve been fortunate for a number of years we’ve been told we can have a regular maintenance schedule,” he said. “We believe it’s the management style to bring relationships along. That’s where we’re going to have our gains this year, in efficiencies.”

Black said he does not want his department to be an obstacle to vendors on the market.

“We want to make sure our customers can still operate well. We’re not here to balance the budget on the backs of the customers,” he said. “That’s not the way to do it.”

Efficiency is central to Black’s mission as commissioner, he said.

“One thing we’re looking at, departmentwide, we have a wide range of inspectors and this has a little application in produce,” he said. “My view is one inspector from the department should be cross-trained to do it all and leave the business owner alone. That’s not the case now.”

Enforcement will stay the same, but it will be less cumbersome, he said.

“Our regulatory responsibilities don’t change,” Black said.

The department’s 43-member steering committee met for the first time under Black’s administration Feb. 28. The committee’s role is to seep into every nook of responsibility the department has and look for better ways to see those duties through, Black said.

“That’s where I respect those who will help us set those priorities that are essential, and we’ll set our resources on those needs,” he said.

The department operates on a budget of about $40 million, but that also has been adjusted to reflect a decline in revenues.

“It’s a different formula of give and take,” Black said. “We’re not going to be totally made whole by that process, but we’ll get pretty close.”

Black has a background in beef production, but he’s no stranger to produce, which is due in part to his 21 years as president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, he said.

“I worked with growers for years and have a pretty extensive policy background on a lot of issues,” he said.

Black says he is drawn to market initiatives, but he said he wants to be smart about it. That includes targeting specific markets for Georgia-grown produce, particularly Vidalia onions.

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