Tommy Irvin, Georgia’s commissioner of agriculture, fears that an early frost may compound losses experienced this year by the state’s farmers, who already have suffered in excess of $500 million in damages to their crops caused by the summer drought.

      The Asian economic crisis and the devaluation of the Russian ruble will further exacerbate the problems of farmers who export poultry products, and crops such as cotton, peanuts and pecans, Mr. Irvin told GlobalFax in a telephone interview last week.

     Georgia’s leading agricultural exports include poultry, cotton, peanuts, tobacco, wheat, soybeans, vegetables and pecans.

      Mr. Irvin said that the state’s initial cotton crop was destroyed earlier this summer but that a second crop was beginning to bloom.  It takes 57 days for the boll to materialize, he added somewhat apprehensively because he was not certain temperatures would remain high enough over this period.

      He said similar concerns about the weather applied to Georgia’s soybean and peanut crops.  He was encouraged, however, by the fall vegetable crop.

      Last year Georgia exported more than $1.2 billion in food and agricultural products and ranked 15th among the states in total agricultural exports.

      Extension agents throughout the state and the Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development at the University of Georgia have determined that as of last month cotton already experienced $143 million in damage and the corn crop, $46 million of damage.  New figures are expected to be available at the end of August.

      For more information, contact the department’s press office at (404) 656-3689; fax, (404) 656-9380.