Monday, October 2, 2023

GPIA annual meeting speakers highlight personal and professional impacts

By Elizabeth Poisson Poultry Times staff Photo by David B. Strickland Rodney Bullard, left, Chick-fil-A’s vice president of corporate social responsibility, is joined by Gary Black, Georgia’s commissioner of agriculture. The two provided their insights during presentations at the Georgia Poultry Improvement Association’s recent annual meeting in Gainesville, Ga.

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GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Oct. 5 marked the 86th Annual Meeting of Georgia Poultry Improvement Association at the headquarters of the Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network here.

The GPIA hosted people from the University of Georgia, the Georgia Institute of Technology and people from several poultry companies at this meeting. The organization honored their longest serving employees of five, 10 and 20 years.

Attendees had the opportunity to hear from two speakers, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, as well as Rodney Bullard, Chick-fil-A’s vice president of corporate social responsibility.

Secure food

Black is currently wrapping up his third term as Georgia’s commissioner of agriculture and is the 16th commissioner to serve in the role.

Black had held several positions during the past 40 years in agriculture, spanning from the Georgia Farm Bureau to the Georgia Agribusiness Council. The commissioner is an alumnus from the University of Georgia and was the president of the UGA Alumni Association. He works on advisory boards for the USDA, Environmental Protection Agency and the Export Import Bank of the United States.

Black’s guidance has led the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s departments such as information technology, animal health and food safety have gained national praise. Black has led innovation efforts through the “Georgia Grown” branding program on the domestic and international levels. He received the Leadership Georgia Pattillo Award and in 2017 he received Georgia Trend Magazine’s Georgian of the Year award. Black and his wife, Lydia, raise cows on their family farm in Commerce, Ga. They also are involved in ministries at their church, Maysville Baptist Church.

During his speech at the GPIA meeting, he noted that there has been a great effort between the government and poultry industry to improve Georgia agriculture. He also emphasized that food is especially important to national security, and this was learned from the pandemic.

Black stressed that it is very important to train and be vigilant with biosecurity. He said “there is no easy button” when hard decisions have to be made about biosecurity.

Personal impact

Bullard heads Chick-fil-A’s community commitment, charitable efforts and sustainability policy. Bullard is an alumnus of the Air Force Academy, Duke Law School, the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business and Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program. He worked at the Pentagon as a Congressional Liaison in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force. He was also chosen to be a White House fellow and went to NASA working for the NASA Administrator. To be selected as a White House fellow is the country’s highest public service fellowship position.

Bullard has also served as an assistant United States attorney as a prosecutor. For his work as a prosecutor, the United States Attorney General gave him the Department of Justice Director’s award.

During his presentation, Bullard mentioned how his love of Chick-fil-A started. He said when he was in the second or third grade, he was at the South DeKalb Mall and saw there was a new restaurant within the mall. That restaurant was Chick-fil-A, and he saw they were giving out samples of chicken. He first took one piece of chicken and went back to his parents. Then he went back to restaurant and took another piece of chicken and another and another. Finally, his parents caught on to what his was doing and he told them they were giving out free chicken. His parents said that the first piece of chicken was free and after that he was stealing. For his punishment, he had to do research on Chick-fil-A and learned about company founder S. Truett Cathy.

When Bullard got older, he attended Atlanta Falcons games at the Georgia Dome, now the Mercedes Benz stadium. He never realized that the neighborhood across the street from stadium was struggling. Bullard learned this when he was a prosecutor and he had to take the case of a Mrs. Johnson. Mrs. Johnson lived in this neighborhood and police officers who were also drug dealers broke into her home. She fired a few shots with a pea shooter, they fired back and unfortunately, she was killed. He realized during this case that this neighborhood was suffering and the police officers who were also drug dealers were just a symptom of the problem.

While he was trying to help this community, he met Dan Cathy, chairman and CEO of Chick-fil-A., as well as S. Truett Cathy. He was later hired by Chick-fil-A; and has been helping struggling communities since taking the job. He closed his speech with a moving story about Emory University theology professor Greg Ellison. He spoke of when Ellison was a six-year-old, and his aunt Dot, who was an intelligent woman with a Ph.D. He asked her “how do you save the world?” She was stunned because this question came from a six-year-old. She said she wasn’t sure but told him he could impact the 3-feet around him.

Bullard took this advice to heart, noting the impact that an individual can have on the 3-feet around them. He strives to help others know of the impact they can have on the space around them. Bullard added that the coolest job he ever had was at NASA, but the best job he has ever had is at Chick-fil-A.

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