Kemp declares pecan state nut as Georgia reclaims top production spot


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State yielded 142 million pounds of native tree nut in 2020

Last month, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared the pecan the official state nut. The signing of Senate Bill 222 follows a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report in which Georgia reclaimed its position as the top pecan-producing state in the nation.

Georgia farmers produced more than 142 million pounds of pecans in 2020, up from 73 million pounds in 2019. Kemp said he is taking steps to help Georgia farmers, like pecan producers, by diversifying and creating economic development for rural Georgia, along with getting broadband internet to those rural farms.

“I’m very hopeful about the position that Georgia’s in from an economic development perspective and agriculture. I fully understand how tough it has been on the farm for many years now,” Kemp said at an event hosted by Ellis Bros. Pecans in Vienna.

Many producers are replanting crops following effects from 2018’s Hurricane Michael, which damaged 26,000 acres of pecan trees across the state. Lawmakers hope the signing of SB 222 will help promote Georgia Grown products and the state’s agritourism sites.

“We have such a diverse economy – when you think about the ports, when you think about agriculture, when you think about Fortune 500 companies — we have everything you could want in this state for a diverse economy,” Kemp said. “But make no mistake, the backbone of our economy in Georgia is in places just like this and people that are growing these nuts on the farm.”

Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black also made sure to note that another iconic state crop ­– the peanut – is a legume, so it wasn’t in contention for the honor.

As pecans grow increasingly popular in international markets, more Georgia pecan farmers are looking to exporting and the Georgia Ports Authority is well equipped to seamlessly serve this growing market.

In Calendar Year 2020, the Port of Savannah handled 1,082 twenty-foot equivalent container units of nut exports, a 20 percent increase from 2019. According to the University of Georgia, an average annual pecan harvest in Georgia is 80 to 100 million pounds. Georgia pecan production is centered around Macon and southward, with some orchards measuring several thousand acres.

Since pecans are the only native tree nuts grown in the country, the U.S. produces 50 to 60 percent of the world’s pecans. Georgia has been among the top pecan-producing states since the 1800s. Georgia pecans typically account for about one-third of U.S. production.