Bush's budget bad news for farmers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Bush's budget bad news for farmers

February 8, 2005

Albany- President Bush's budget proposal for 2006 is being called the tightest budget in years, and if it passes peanut growers say they're certain to feel the squeeze.

The proposal includes payment limit caps and reductions in crop payments, all-around bad news for struggling Southwest Georgia farmers.

Peanut farmers say the past few years have been difficult to say the least.

"We used to grow peanuts and sell them for $625, $650 a ton. Now we're growing them for $355 a ton, 355 to 400," says Terry Pickle, peanut grower and president of the Georgia peanut Producers Association.

The group gathered for their annual meeting, and even though it wasn't on the agenda, Bush's proposed budget was on everyone's mind.

"I would rather not have a single penny come from the government and sell peanuts at $500 a ton, and sell cotton at $0.75 a pound, and sell corn at $3.50, $4.00 a bushel, but until we see that happening, until we can make that happen, the only other answer is for the government to help us out," Pickle says.

Bush wants to lower the payment limit cap for commodity programs and cut federal payments to farmers by 5%. That's $587 million.

"Most of us have reached the payment cap already and if they cut that, then you're going to cut out a bunch of money," says Pickle.

"At the same time that we're having the budget pressures, we're having the pressures coming on us from the production from the rest of the world," says Murray Campbell.

Growers say they're already hurting because of increases in imported goods and environmental restrictions.

"I can't compete with a Brazilian farmer, or a Chinese farmer, or an Argentinean farmer that doesn't care about their environment and doesn't care about their labor. We care about our people, we care about where we live, and so we have some costs that are incurred just because of that," Campbell says.

The peanut producers admit Georgia lawmakers understand the plight of the small farmer, but they only account for a certain amount of votes.

"You have to always remember they're talking to people from New York and they're taking to people from L.A. who aren't nearly as close to that farm dollar as we are here in Southwest Georgia," says Campbell.

Southwest Georgia growers say the cuts also come at a bad time because many of them are still trying to recover from damage left by last year's string of hurricanes. The Bush administration says it's keeping a tight lid on domestic spending to help reduce a record deficit of $427 billion.

Posted at 4:45 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com