Outlook better for farmers in 2003 - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Outlook better for farmers in 2003

January 16, 2003

Albany -- Peanut farmers return to this year's Peanut and Farm Show with less uncertainty then they had the year before, waiting to see what the new farm bill would be, and whether they should plant peanuts. "We'll be on hold until we see what the new program brings," Hal Haddock said a year ago.

Apparently some waited and never planted because in 2002 Georgia peanuts dropped from 1.7 billion pounds to only 1.3 billion pounds, and those who did plant didn't see the best weather.

"It was dry in spring, and dry throughout the summer," Joe Boddiford said.

Times were so tough, that Congressmen like Jim Marshall have proposed $3 billion  in emergency aid.

"I think we've got a national security interest in protecting our food supply, and making sure it's grown in the U.S."

That one piece of promising news, but there's more. The reason farmers are optimistic is the water is flowing again, meaning moisture gets into the soil, making things look good for 2003.

"At least we're starting off with something in the soil, last year it started off dry and all it did was get drier," Boddiford said.

But as these peanut growers know all to well, they can't count the weather alone. "To prosper in the future there's some things we've got to do," UGA Dean of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, said.

"Farming is a business, more complex it gets more management skills you need," UGA Economist Nathan Smith said.

The economist predicts with peanut price support questions still unanswered, cooperatives might be the wave of the future, or some might just switch to cotton.

Peanut farmers are still waiting on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set their loan repayment rates. Prices might drop from $610 a ton, to $355. Georgia peanut prices are also higher than foreign peanuts, making them nearly impossible to sell overseas.

posted at 5:45 p.m. by dave.d'marko@walb.com