Georgia Peanut Commission works to continue ag research - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Georgia Peanut Commission works to continue ag research

Faced with huge proposed budget cuts in agricultural research, Georgia peanut farmers may step up to pay for research projects themselves.

The Georgia Peanut Commission is holding a referendum this month.

Farmers will vote on increasing their assessment from 2 dollars to 3 dollars per ton.

Most of the extra money would pay for research and education.

So far this year, the Georgia Peanut Commission has approved nearly a quarter million dollars in research projects. And they are asking peanut farmers to vote on increasing their assessment, so they can invest more in increasing growers efficiency.

At the slightest hint of rain, roofs move out over these experimental peanut plots at the U.S.D.A. National Peanut Lab in Dawson, to keep the water off. Scientists stress these peanuts with drought and heat, from heating coils in the ground, to find the best varieties to handle the harshest weather.

Peanut Lab Research Leader Marshall Lamb said "Our scientists can look for gene expression and try to identify molecular markers that will help in our breeding programs. That when drought does come we can mitigate the effects of it."

The National Peanut Lab could have 25 percent of its research budget cut through proposed federal and state budget cuts. The Georgia Peanut Commission is holding a referendum to raise growers' assessment from two to three dollars a ton, to help continue vital research like this.

Georgia Peanut Commission Executive Director Don Koehler said "Look at the plants that can handle drought stress a lot better. If you think about where we are in South Georgia, dealing with drought stress and making sure we use water efficiently are two things we've got to do."

Georgia Peanut Farmers had record yields despite dry conditions in 2009 and 2010, in large part due to better practices and products learned in research projects. Scientists say those yields show the investment is paying off.

Lamb said "We're at a particular point where we have seen some really good productivity increases in the peanut industry. And we want to continue those so peanuts stay competitive well into the future."

Koehler said "All of us as consumers depend on this research because it gives you the cheapest and safest food supply anywhere on the face of the earth."

The Georgia Peanut Commission says most peanut farmers they have talked to say they are in favor of the assessment increase, which would be the first since 1980. But they need 25 percent of the ballots mailed out returned for the referendum vote to count. So they are urging growers to mail back in their ballots.

Georgia peanut growers have until April 15 to mail back in those peanut referendum ballots. If you did not receive a ballot, you can call the Peanut Commission at 229-386-3470 to get one. Commission officials need 25 percent of farmers to vote, to make the referendum count.

Georgia Peanut Commission officials hope the one dollar assessment increase will raise three quarters of a million dollars more for research.

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