Farmers harvest crops, but not much cash - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Farmers harvest crops, but not much cash

January 18, 2007

Albany - Farmers from all over the state are in Albany to see the latest farming equipment and technology. Technology that makes their jobs easier, and hopefully more cost effective, otherwise, they'll lose money and you'll lose the good deals you currently get on food.

"Step right up and get your hot grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich over here," Tyron Spearman says.   It's America's number one sandwich, brought to you by Georgia peanut farmers. "Georgia grows almost half of peanuts in the country."

And almost half of those peanuts go into peanut butter. A yummy food that's also good for you.  Just one of the endless products farmers bring to us, but what if they all just stopped?

Spearman says, "If we ever lose them and we don't have a generous food supply, an inexpensive food supply in this country, and other foreign countries have to supply our food then we're in trouble." Bad news is, we're already in trouble. Farmers are leaving the farms, not by choice, but because they just can't afford to feed their own families.

"It gets tougher every year," says Jeff Reed, a peanut and cotton farmer from Dooley County. He made the trip to the Peanut show in Albany today for one reason. He says, "We're looking for ways to be more efficient with fewer people." To bring in more money and hopefully pull a profit.

Reed says, "The cost of production is so much more than it used to be." The price of farming equipment has risen dramatically over the years. This four row peanut combine will run you about $88,000, but the results of what you get from it, like this bag of Georgia peanuts, well, the price hasn't changed much.

Reed says, "There's people who've been farming for 40 years and selling peanuts today for the same price when they started farming."

Take a look at this: In 1929, families spent about 23% of their disposable income on food.  What would you expect that percentage, with inflation, to be today? 25, 30, even 40%? Nope, it's not. Actually, we spend less on food. According to the USDA, we now only spend about 10%. Surprised?

Don Koehler, Executive Director of the Georgia Peanut Commission says, "Farm products have been anti-inflationary. The price just hasn't gone up the way everything else has and that's because farmers are doing a better job. We spend less percentage on our disposable income on food now than we ever have in the history of this country."

Reed is proud of the job he does.  He says, "We feed so many for so little." He would just like to reap a little more from his harvest.

Reed says the high cost of equipment and expensive labor also add to their overhead.

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