South Georgia farmers plant peanuts during drought - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia farmers plant peanuts during drought

May 29, 2007

Albany -- Some South Georgia peanut farmers are planting right now, despite what many call the worst drought they have seen in 20 years. But many farmers are waiting to plant because it is so dry, praying for rain.

 The dust being kicked up in this field by that tractor is proof how severe the drought in South Georgia is. Jimmy Webb of Harvey Jordan Farms said "all I can say is, I sure am glad I've got irrigation."

Despite his best field preparations, the peanut seed goes into dry dirt. Webb said "this field has been watered. I know it's hard to believe with all this dust. But we watered ahead of time."

They are planting 750 acres of peanuts, and the GPS guiding system is needed because it's so dusty, tractor drivers can't see field markers. Wesley Webb said "usually you don't see the creeks and the rivers this low until late June, early July, when everyone starts watering the cotton and peanuts."

Fourth generation farmers, the Webbs have irrigation for all their crops, but they know many South Georgia farmers don't, and they are waiting. Webb said "the dryland farmers have seed on the trailers waiting to plant. I don't know if they know if they are going to wait on a rain or plant in dry dirt."

 With no rain in the forecast for at least a week, Webb has his irrigation equipment working full time. He'll make a crop, but doesn't know if he'll make a profit for it.  Webb said "my fertilizer price has doubled, and look at how much I'm going to have to water it. I don't know if I'll be any better off that I was last year, with the cost of production."

Webb said South Georgia farmers know this will be a tough year, and that will carry over to the South Georgia economy. Stores and businesses could see sales go dry, if profits from the state's number one industry fail to produce.

Jimmy Webb says another year of drought could also mean higher food prices.

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