Meeting in Northwest Georgia lays out possibility of beef processing plants

Cows stir up dust on dry ground as they run on James Burton's farm on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, in LaFayette, Ga. As the region's drought has worsened, Burton says he has used all of his stores of hay to feed his cattle and is now having to buy hay to keep his herd fed.

State and local agencies gathered last week in Northwest Georgia to talk to cattle producers about the possibility of bringing a beef processing facility to the area that could spur economic growth.

Agriculture in the state of Georgia is a $73.3 billion industry. The University of Georgia's Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development estimates that one in seven people in Georgia work in agriculture, forestry or related fields.

A 2018 farm gate value report showed that there is a $29 million beef cattle industry in Dade, Walker, Chattooga, Catoosa, Whitfield, Murray and Gordon counties.

Walker and Gordon counties have the most estimated cattle with 10,000 in each county.

The report also found that beef in Georgia is about a $453 million industry. For those reasons, the state and other agencies have been looking for a way to make beef production a more cost-effective process.