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Peanut farmers concerned about future after contamination

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By Christian Jennings - bio | email

January 29, 2009

SYCAMORE, GA (WALB) - The salmonella outbreak has local farmers and the leaders with the Georgia Peanut Commission worried about the future of the peanut business. They say peanuts are the heart of south Georgia's agriculture industry...and one manufacturer...the Peanut Corporation of America is giving it a bad name.

Allen Whitehead and his brother work 1600 acres of peanuts, cotton, and corn in Turner County.

So when he first heard about the Peanut Corporation of America and the national salmonella outbreak he of course, was concerned about the future of his business.

"Anything to do with the peanut industry affects what we as farmers do," said Whitehead.

His biggest concern right now is the confusion among consumers and buyers. He wants people to understand there are still peanut products safe to consume.

And still many manufacturers and farmers that do follow the rules, and keep Americans safe.

"Let's focus on those people and companies that are doing it right. Those farmers that are doing it right. And lets make sure it doesn't happen again by all means," he said.

"There is a lot of manufactures that have been careful. They follow the regulations and they produce a safe product. And then we have one manufacturer, the PCA that is actually giving a bad name to the industry," said Joy Carter, Director of Communications for the Georgia Peanut Commission.

She says it's still too early to tell how bad the outbreak will effect the industry.

"Right now there's still a lot of uncertainty of how it will effect farmers. Right now farmers are having difficulty finding peanut contracts for the upcoming season," said Carter.

The salmonella scare on top of a faltering economy puts a cloud of worry peanut growers and handlers everywhere. But Allen Whitehead says he has faith in what's to come.

"The industry is good and we've got a lot of good people involved in the industry...it will go on," he said.

Both Joy Carter and Allen Whitehead stressed that the Peanut Corporation of America does not represent how the peanut business is handled here in South Georgia.

They also wanted to remind people some things are still OK to eat, like national name brand jars of peanut butter you buy in the grocery store.

For a list of products that ARE safe to eat, click here.

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