Politics & Government

Ag commissioner: No more free Market Bulletin

The new state Department of Agriculture commissioner is drawing the line: It’s time to pay for the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin or it could fold.

“I’m looking at this as a serious business proposition,” said Commissioner Gary Black, telling a state Senate committee how he intends to meet his budget this year.

Under a law passed last year, before Black’s tenure, the Georgia General Assembly decided that the bulletin should pay its way, and it set a price of $10 to receive the paper every other week for a year. Each copy costs the state roughly 23 cents to send, Black said.

There are about 14,000 paid subscribers and another 95,000 who still haven’t sent a check. Last year’s bill says the paper needs 58,000 paid subscribers to continue.

With the Jan. 26 issue, those who have paid will receive a normal bulletin. Nonpayers get a version with a headline story that doubles as an invoice for the paper.

“We’ve deputized all 600 employees of the Department of Agriculture as salesmen,” he said.

The online bulletin remains free, but it’s too static, Black said.

“I would like to see the online version actually be real time,” Black said. “I think it could be like Craigslist,” the network of online communities that features free classified advertisements, updated heavily during the day.

For example, a farmer “in Brooks County’s got 10 heifers to sell, he ought to be able to upload a 30-second video,” Black explained, adding that he’s already got powerful enough computers to do it.