Tuesday August 20th, 2019 6:42PM

Future of Georgia's farmers markets debated after audit

By The Associated Press
An audit of Georgia's farmers markets found that many are underused and more than half are losing money. 
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that auditors say the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the General Assembly need to re-evaluate the use of the state's nine farmers markets to determine whether the cost is worth the benefit of having the facilities. 
The recommendations are from a recent report from the state Department of Audits and Accounts. 
``Operational improvements are needed to ensure that the markets, as an enterprise, are operating in a more business-like manner,'' the report states. 
State-run farmers markets are in Atlanta, Augusta, Cairo, Cordele, Macon, Moultrie, Thomasville, Savannah and Valdosta. 
Georgia Department of Agriculture officials say auditors may be viewing the markets in a different way than they do. 
``I think it depends on what your vision of a farmers market is,'' Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said. 
``I absolutely agree that all aspects of government should employ business principles every day,'' he added. ``We apply business principles.'' 
For instance: The department has looked more closely at its lease agreements for the markets and has centralized some of the accounting processes, the Atlanta newspaper reported. 
Many of the administrative recommendations that were suggested during the 18-month process of the audit have been implemented, Black said. 
The Legislature approved the state's borrowing of $15 million between 2014 and 2016 to improve the markets across the state, with $14 million of that money going to the Atlanta Market, the audit noted. 
State farmers markets are underused by both customers and farmers, according to the audit. Of the nine markets run by the state, five of them cost more to operate than they generate in revenue. 
The agriculture department has to consider the mission of the markets, said its marketing director, Jack Spruill. 
``Here is the perspective difference,'' Spruill said. ``How are these supposed to make profit, or how much are they supposed to add to the profitability as a whole of the community to give all of the agricultural community an outlet for their products?'' 
The markets are loved by the communities they serve, Black said. 
``Ten weeks out of the year that's a very busy place,'' Black said. ``The local community would like to have it, and the local legislative delegation would like for it to be there.'' 
The Department of Agriculture should focus on each market, other than the one in Atlanta, and determine whether it needs to be closed, auditors said. If the department chooses not to close markets, they need investment and the department must determine if and how they can be improved and modernized.
© Copyright 2019
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Future of Georgia's farmers markets debated after audit
​An audit of Georgia's farmers markets found that many are underused and more than half are losing money.
6:09AM ( 11 minutes ago )
Contract awarded for White Co. bridge work
A $969,000 contract has been approved by the Georgia Department of Transportation for a bridge renovation project in White County.
6:00AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Teaver named Peach State Bank & Trust board chairman
Stewart Teaver has been elected chairman of the board of directors for Peach State Bank & Trust, according to an announcement by William House, chairman of Peach State Bancshares, the bank’s holding company.
2:00AM ( 4 hours ago )
Local/State News
White County bridge rehab among safety projects awarded by GDOT
The Georgia Department of Transportation announced three projects have been awarded for the purpose of enhancing or creating safety on state routes.
By Staff
8:57PM ( 9 hours ago )
No deal reached, as moderates search for shutdown solution
Restive Senate moderates in both parties are searching for a solution to a partisan stalemate as they raced toward a late-night showdown vote and their last chance to reopen the federal government before the workweek began.
8:27PM ( 9 hours ago )
UPDATE: AccessWDUN's Scott Kimbler visits UNG firearms simulator
The University of North Georgia Department of Criminal Justice has opened a high-tech firearms simulator and forensics house.
By AccessWDUN staff
6:38PM ( 11 hours ago )
Dahlonega woman raising $25k for spinal cord injury research on Appalachian Trail
A Dahlonega physical therapist will make the journey of a lifetime this spring as she travels the entire Appalachian Trail to raise $25,000 for spinal cord injury research.
12:00PM ( 18 hours ago )
Gainesville schools officials schedule attendance zone meetings
Parents of students who attend Gainesville city schools will have a chance to look at plans for the district's proposed attendance zones for the 2018-19 school year at two upcoming meetings.
9:00AM ( 21 hours ago )