Peanut growers face uncertain planting time

Not knowing which way the farm bill winds will blow has peanut farmers in a tizzy. Here it is April and farmers still have no firm direction, as of presstime, about what they'll plant for 2002 — either under a new program or an extension of the old one.

The situation was still up in the air for many Virginia peanut producers as they neared the window for planting. Like many, Virginia grower, Billy Bain of Dinwiddie, Va., negotiated rent back in the winter. “When I negotiated rent with my landowners, I told them there was a possibility that we'd have a new program. They listened, but I'm not sure they took my case. Now, if we have a new peanut program in place for this season, I'm going to have to go around and renegotiate.”

Bain is waiting to see what will happen. In late March, he had a “gut feeling” that the current program would be extended another year. Should that happen, he plans to cut production 20 to 22 percent on his 600 acres. If peanuts are under a new program, “the cut could be much greater. It's going to be very confusing if they change it now.”

The first week of April, Bain was in the field planting corn. “We already have investments in the farm,” he says. “It's got me in a tizzy.”

It's a similar situation for Tom Clements, who farms both sides of the state line of North Carolina and Virginia.

“I know we can't live in this environment very long,” he says. “I've got operating loans. And I don't see the landowners giving us a break on rent.”

Clements feels like the V-C, which he describes as the “most efficient in the country,” is being put on the chopping block with the legislation in Congress.

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