Georgia lawmaker & soybean pioneer to be inducted into Ag Hall of Fame
By Casey Chastain, UGA CAES
On Nov. 11, the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences will induct former Georgia Rep. Richard Royal and pioneering Georgia soybean specialist John Woodruff into the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame.
The celebration will be part of the college’s alumni awards ceremony and banquet at the Classic Center in downtown Athens, Georgia. The public is invited to attend but tickets are required.
The Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame was established in 1972 to recognize individuals who made extraordinary contributions to agriculture and agribusiness in Georgia.
“I would like to congratulate the new inductees into the Ag Hall of Fame,” said Elliott Marsh, president of the CAES Alumni Association. “The 2016 inductees are outstanding additions and join a group of notable women and men who have helped to enhance agriculture in Georgia and throughout the world.”
Inductees are nominated by members of the public and selected by the awards committee of the college’s alumni association. Those nominated must possess impeccable character, outstanding leadership, noteworthy contributions to Georgia’s agricultural landscape, and recognition for achievements in agriculture as well as other areas.
Former inductees include agricultural history makers such as D.W. Brooks, founder of Goldkist; J.W. Fanning, former UGA vice-president for public service and J. Phil Campbell, founding director of Cooperative Extension in Georgia.
This year’s winners — Royal and Woodruff — have their own long list of accolades.
Advocate for Georgia agriculture
During his 25 years in the Georgia General Assembly, Royal earned a reputation as an advocate for agriculture. He helped to develop policies that supported Georgia farmers.
Royal was first elected to the Georgia House in 1983 from the 171st District, which included Mitchell and Colquitt counties. He served as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means and on the Appropriations and Natural Resources and Environment committees.
Royal helped to craft the Conservation Use Valuation Assessment law for Georgia. CUVA allows agricultural or forest lands to be placed in a covenant for a lower ad valorem rate.
Even after retirement, Royal continued to play a role in crafting a law to create the Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption (GATE.) GATE was created in 2011 and expanded Georgia sales tax exemptions for all agricultural inputs. This law gave agriculture the same status granted to other industries.
Royal was also instrumental in securing the funding for UGA's Stripling Irrigation Research Park, a state-of-the-art irrigation research and education center in Camilla, Georgia.
The soybean industry in Georgia and worldwide has seen increasing yields thanks to the work of John Woodruff, a pioneering University of Georgia Extension soybean agronomist. He has long been recognized as one of the top soybean specialists in the nation. Woodruff developed computer programs to assist county agents and farmers in selecting the best possible variety for individual fields and farms.
Woodruff’s research helped Georgia soybean producers in creating higher yields and higher profits. In 2014, Woodruff adapted the early season soybean production system from Mississippi and Arkansas and worked with a soybean grower to produce 116 bushels per acre. This was the first time a 100+ bushel per acre yield had been achieved in Georgia. Woodruff has also helped developing countries such as Haiti, Kenya and Tanzania produce higher yields to help combat their growing hunger rate.
In addition to recognizing Royal and Woodruff, the ceremony and banquet will honor alumni award winners.
This year, the CAES Award of Excellence will be presented to D. Wayne Akins Jr., Chief Retail Banking Officer of Synovus Bank, Charles Hubert Bronson Jr., former Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Dr. Beverly Lynn Sparks, former UGA Associate Dean for Cooperative Extension, and R. Lowry Weyman Hunt, Jr. (Whitey), a sixth-generation Morgan County farmer.
Luke Lanier, assistant vice president of Metter Bank; Allison Perkins, UGA Cooperative Extension county agent for Bartow County; and Cliff Riner, coordinator of the Vidalia Onion and Vegetable Research Center, will receive CAES Young Alumni Achievement awards.
For more information about the ways that alumni of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences have shaped the world visit alumni.caes.uga.edu/events/.