MOULTRIE — An unexpected visitor dropped by the annual Sunbelt Ag Expo luncheon Tuesday – the Vice President of the United States.
Vice President Mike Pence, who was in the area examining storm damage, pledged the federal government will be there as the region recovers and touted the economy under President Donald Trump.
“Michael was a once-in-a-generation storm that dealt a devastating blow to Florida and the Sunbelt (area),” said Pence, whose trip was taking him to hard-hit Decatur County later in the afternoon.
Cotton and pecan growers and the vegetable and poultry industries in the region were heavily affected, he said.
“We’ll be there to help Georgia and the area recover," Pence said. "The spirit of people in this region, the strength of the people of this area is inspiring (America). It really is.”
After Pence left the hangar to continue his travels, the ceremony honoring the 2018 Southeastern Farmer of the Year resumed, with South Carolina’s Kevin Yon selected out of a group of winners from eight states.
Yon was the 29th farmer recognized by Swisher International and Sunbelt Expo.
The putative star of the show didn’t seem to mind being upstaged by the visitor from D.C.
“That was such a tremendous honor that he thought enough about rural America to come,” Yon said of the Pence visit.
Yon, 52, grows Bermuda grass, soybeans, pecans, corn and small grains. He also raises purebred Angus beef and operates a retail store to sell his pecans and other South Carolina-raised products.
While it was a celebratory atmosphere at the ceremony, it was not lost on Yon that there are many suffering not far away who lost homes and still are without electricity.
“Our hearts go out to those who have been affected by this,” he said.
Expo Executive Director Chip Blalock echoed those thoughts.
“It was great to have him,” he said of Pence. “It was great to have him in the area. It’s a somber time, but it’s also the time for starting rebuilding. That started Thursday.
“They called and said the vice president’s coming with (U.S. Agriculture) Secretary (Sonny) Perdue, and they said we’ve got to make that happen and we did.”