By Raju Chebium
Alabama farmer Randall Beers is counting on House members from Southeastern states to work to protect peanut growers in the next farm bill.
The Tyler farmer, who planted peanuts on 360 acres this year, wants Congress to beef up safety-net programs that help growers absorb price declines and recover from natural disasters.
Legislation moving through the Senate wouldn't help peanut growers because it was written with Midwestern corn and soybean growers in mind, according to Beers and other growers.
Industry lobbyists are counting on the newly revived House Peanut Caucus to push their interests when the House writes its own version of the farm bill this summer.
"We don't need to depend on the federal government for everything, but we sure can't have all of our safety net taken away," Beers said. "I'm a fifth-generation farmer and this is certainly what I love to do, but it's certainly been a struggle lately to make ends meet."
Major State Crop
Alabama has about 1,800 peanut farmers who plant on about 180,000 acres, according to Randy Griggs, executive director of the Alabama Peanut Producers Association.
The state's peanut industry generates about $500 million for the Alabama economy, Griggs said, adding that about half the nation's peanuts are grown within 100 miles of Dothan.
Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, and Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., are co-chairs of the House Peanut Caucus, a bipartisan group of 15 lawmakers from Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi and North Carolina.
The caucus is likely to grow as lawmakers from other peanut-growing states such as Texas and Oklahoma and Virginia come aboard.
Some Contend Safey Net Needed
Roby said the caucus is working on a wish list to ensure that he peanut industry is treated fairly during farm-bill negotiations.
"We want to make sure that we have a strong peanut caucus that can clearly lay out our objectives so we can be lock-armed going into the farm bill (negotiations)," she said. "We have to ensure that there is a safety net for our farmers that includes three things -- price protection, revenue protection and crop insurance."