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Peanut farmers unhappy with USDA

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

Terrell County, GA (WALB) –  Peanut growers are alarmed that their crop is not included in the USDA's latest disaster program.  The 2009 agricultural disaster assistance from the federal government leaves peanuts without any safety net.

It's South Georgia's top money crop, but The U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2009 disaster assistance summary excludes peanut producers, and farmers from Georgia to Mississippi are asking why.

Terrell County peanut farmer Brian Goolsby looks over his peanut field, and wonders if Washington D.C. Department of Agriculture officials have something against his commodity.

"I don't think they really know what goes on. It's a big risk for a narrow profit margin," Goolsby said.

The 2009 Disaster Program lists rice, soybeans, cotton, and sweet potatoes, but leaves off peanuts. Last fall heavy rains during harvest delayed picking, and ruined some field's quality, yield, and bottom line.

"There are a lot of people in our area, including us, that had a terrible time harvesting," Goolsby said.

Terrell County farmer Neil Lee also questions Washington's logic.  "I don't understand why we got left off considering other commodities in the same county, because we had a tough harvest," Lee said.

So Lee, Goolsby, and the Georgia Peanut Commission are joining with peanut associations across the South, asking the Administration to reconsider the disaster program and include them.

 "I hope they consider it, because there is a lot of peanut producers in this area, and it really needs to be considered," Goolsby said.

The Georgia Peanut Commission says excluding specific commodities for whatever reason has a negative economic impact for those producers. 

Peanut associations in Georgia, Alabama , Florida and Mississippi say the administration in Washington hurt their crop enough when they proposed eliminating peanuts from commercial airlines. Now leaving it off the U.S.D.A.'s disaster program has them asking for an explanation.

More than 80% of the nation's peanuts are produced in the four Southeastern states. The crop is a two billion dollar industry. Georgia produces 49 percent of the nations peanuts.

Last year the 70 counties that produce peanuts yielded more than 1.7 billion pounds.

The states top five peanut producing counties are Decatur, Worth, Early, Miller, and Dooly.

We have 14,000 peanut farms and 4,500 farmers. The peanut industry contributes more than 50,000 jobs in Georgia.

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