American peanut farmers fight for funds - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

American peanut farmers fight for funds

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Tifton- Allen Whitehead owns a 15 hundred acre farm in Turner County. Five hundred and fifty acres of his farm are dedicated to his peanut crop. He says, cuts to the 2002 Farm Bill will have a devastating affect for farmers like himself.

"If these supports are done away with, then this whole industry will be done away with. You have to have the farmer who grow the peanuts first. We've got to make a profit," said Whithead.

Cuts to the 2002 Farm Bill include doing away with a secured loan program for farmers. The program allows farmers put up their peanuts for a loan and either repay the loan or forfeit the peanuts. It's a program that many farmers rely on.

"The problems is we must keep this loan program because it is key to the way the program works. If we loose this key then the whole program will fall apart," said Tim McMillan, chairman of the American Peanut PAC.

In addition, the government does not plan to include money for storage and handling past 2007. This could hurt many crops and possibly cause an industry wide problem for shellers like Jack Chastain who has to store crops.

"If you go through July, August, and September with the heat of the summer, you're going to have over dried peanuts, your going to have insect problems and it's a constant battle to keep them out." And representatives at the legislative summit say, the cuts won't just affect peanut farms but other agricultural industries.

"It's suppliers, bankers, agribusiness people who are engaged in any part of the agricultural process. Frankly, in most of these counties it's the biggest piece of their economic base," said Bob Redding, Washington representative.

Officials at the meeting say they want farmers to go back to other farmers and to their communities to encourage others them to write to representative in Washington. They have set up a web site at www.americanpeanuts.com to help Southwest Georgia farmers.

"On the web site, you're able to send a letter to the President, to both of your senators, and your congressman in your area immediately," said Whitehead.

posted by jennifer.emert@walb.com