L-r: Dale Crarmmond, Irish counsellor, agriculture and food; Gary W. Black, Georgia agriculture commissioner, Minister Michael Creed, Ireland's minister for agriculture good and the marine and Shane Stephens, consul general for the Southeast.

Georgia is on the verge of signing an agreement with the Republic of Ireland to strengthen the familiarity between state and Irish agricultural regulatory officials, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black told Global Atlanta on Friday, March 2.

Mr. Black met with Michael Creed, Ireland’s minister for agriculture, earlier in the week in Nashville, Tenn., at an annual North American Meat Industry Conference.

The two officials have been discussing the potential of an exchange program between Georgia and Irish regulatory officials for approximately a year discussing an agreement for issues affecting food safety, meat, plants and animals.

“We’ve been trying to find the right partners for several years now,” Mr. Black said referring to visitors from around the world who have been coming to his office in Atlanta. “We want the right fit between the regulatory professionals so that they can improve their understanding of each others regulations and trading practices.”

He also said that he had been brainstorming with the Irish officials including the Irish ambassador to the U.S., the agricultural attache out of Washington and Consul General Shane Stephens in Atlanta.

Better trade relations, according to the commissioner, start with better relationships among regulatory officials. “I’m confident this experience will pay big dividends to the state of Georgia and Ireland for years to come,” he added, saying he expects the agreement to be signed in the very near future with official events starting as early as this summer.

A related benefit, he added, would be the development of closer ties to Ireland as a foundation for a stepping stone to the European Union. “It’ll provide a platform for us to take our poultry, pecans, peanuts and value added grasses into the EU,” he said.

Reinforcing the understanding of the agricultural regulations with Europe, Mr. Black said, is just part of a larger scope of agreements being promoted by Georgia’s technical college system, which is focused on workforce development.

As an example, he pointed to links with Ireland’s culinary institutes, which are to send chefs to Georgia and then in time host Georgia students there. He also said that he expects that similar programs would be developed with other countries in the future, citing an inquiry his department already has received from Israel.

For more information, call Julie McPeake, chief communications officer, at 404 656-3689 or send an email to Julie.McPeake@agr.georgia.gov