angie.thompson@gaflnews.com



TIFTON -- What some dubbed as an effort to sway the Georgia Peanut Commission's support toward the farm bill supported by the National Peanut Commission failed Thursday at a meeting at the Rural Development Center.

Over 400 landowners/farmers attended the meeting. Expecting the large crowd, the commission moved the meeting to the Rural Development Center.

Members of the national group spoke in favor of a "Step 2" program which retains the current peanut quota system.

The Georgia Peanut Commission originally teamed with commissions in Alabama, Florida, West Texas and the panhandle of Texas to help pen a bill that would provide a $500 loan program per ton and subsidize farmers 14 cents per pound for quotas for a five-year period.

The U.S. House Agriculture Committee has passed a third plan and plans to present it to the full House after it reconvenes. The New Reform Program combines aspects of the two previous plans and sets a market loan of $350, a new target price of $480, a buyout of 10 cents per pound of quota peanuts for a five-year period and a $36 per ton decoupling fee. The third plan is said to combine aspects of the first two.

Wilbur Gamble, president of the National Peanut Grower group, made a motion late Thursday for the Georgia Peanut Commission to reverse its decision and support the "Step 2" program, and the motion lost by a vote of 3-2. The Georgia Peanut Commission continues to support its original plan.

Discussions became heated with another motion made for the Georgia group to withdraw its membership from the national group. The vote was a tie and the chairman abstained. No action was taken.

Rep. Saxby Chambless brought those in attendance a message that the House Agriculture Committee's 2001 Farm Bill has little chance of passing without changing from the quota system. Chambless and Don Koehler, executive director of the Georgia Peanut Commission, said the bill will be presented to the full U.S. House on Sept. 10.

Some said new reforms to the peanut program will bring the system closely in line with other commodity programs and thus benefit passage of future legislation.

The new plan, if passed, will evaluate the peanuts produced on an acre from 1998-2001, multiply that figure times the average yield and then another 85 percent of that figure determines the new payment yield or base. The base will be guaranteed at a $480 target price. Peanuts produced beyond the payment yield will have a $350 market loan value.

With the new plan, the base allotments cannot be rented and must stay on the same farm.

Jay Roberts of Ocilla, an Irwin County farmer, said he and his farmer tend to 93 acres of peanuts. The Robertses own some land and rent some from a relative. He said he is not "100 percent happy" with the New Reform Program proposal, but believes the larger quota holders will be hurt the most.

He doesn't know if he will "come out better or worse," but believes he "can still grow peanuts at a profit."

"If you give me a base system and guaranteed $480 per ton, it would be close," Roberts said. "I think everybody would like to see a quota system stay, but there is no way."

Georgia produces, on 14,160 farms, 38 percent of the peanuts in the United States. According to the Georgia Agricultural Commodity Commission for Peanuts, over 80 counties in Georgia produced over 1.5 billion pounds of peanuts in 1998 and the industry contributes more than 50,000 jobs in Georgia.



To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.



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