The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction or Super Committee has convened with the goal of cutting $1.5 trillion from the U.S. national budget over the next decade. Congress must adopt their recommendations by the end of the year or government spending will automatically be cut by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, split between defense and domestic programs.
Six democrats and six republicans have until Nov. 23, 2011, to come up with a plan for Congress to ratify.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., chairman of the House Ag Committee, said that until the committee completes its cuts, little work is expected on the Farm Bill. Lucas prefers for his committee to make cuts to a specified dollar amount instead of the Super Committee deciding programs to be cut.
The cuts to agriculture could range from $15 billion to President Obama’s proposal of $33 billion.
A bipartisan agreement in the Senate Agriculture Committee would involve cuts of $20 billion to $33 billion, including elimination of the $5 billion a year direct payment.
Nutrition programs, such as food stamps and school meals, account for 75 percent of agriculture spending, with the remainder in crop subsidies, including crop insurance.
Carter Exhibit Moves To Ag Museum
The “Jimmy Carter: Georgia’s Native Son” exhibit that has been on display at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has been transferred to the Georgia Museum of Agriculture in Tifton. Developed by the Carter Center in Atlanta, the display chronicles President Carter’s life from his peanut roots in Plains, Ga., to his White House years and humanitarian career through the Carter Center. The exhibit is open 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday until April 2012.
Farm Bill Proposals Offered
Various commodity associations have been generating new ideas for the Farm Bill, including offering to give up major segments of the Market Loan Program.
The National Cotton Council directors voted to recommend an adjustment to the current farm program to include a new revenue-based crop insurance program and a modified marketing loan that would be adjusted to satisfy Brazil’s World Trade Organization case.
The National Corn Growers Association has a plan that would scrap the current system of fixed and direct payments and use the money both for deficit reduction and to expand the revenue-protection program known as Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) that was created in 2008.
Legislators are making their own proposals. A group of Senators have proposed the Aggregate Risk and Revenue Management (ARRM) program that would replace direct and counter-cyclical payments, the marketing loan, ACRE and Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) programs.
ARRM is a revenue program designed to make payments in years of low revenue. A government-run program would shield grain, cotton and oilseed growers from shallow losses caused by low prices or poor yields. Crop insurance would cover large losses. Revenue assurance is widely mentioned as the possible foundation for the 2012 Farm Bill.
Groups representing corn, soybean, cotton and dairy producers have proposed versions of revenue assurance programs. They say their proposals will cost less than current subsidies.
Recent issues mentioned are whether growers should be required to practice land stewardship as a condition of eligibility for crop insurance and/or whether to cut public nutrition programs along with crop subsidies.
No groups have said how their recommendations would impact peanuts.
Peanut-Based Aid Purchased For Africa
The American Peanut Council recently praised USAID for a $4.4 million allocation for Ready-To-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTFs) being produced by three American firms.
Peanut paste is a critical ingredient in RUTFs, now the protocol for treating severe acute malnutrition. The food will help treat and feed hungry children in the Horn of Africa, a region suffering from severe drought and famine.
The RUTFs were secured through the USDA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), under the USAID Food for Peace program. The RUTFs are expected to reach more than 70,000 malnourished children beginning next month.
In 2007, the peanut industry launched Peanut Butter for the Hungry, a humanitarian initiative supporting the development of therapeutic foods for severely malnourished children.
Expert Advice On Saving Seed
With raw-shelled prices approaching $1.25 per pound, peanut seed will likely be approaching a similar price. Some producers are considering saving seed for next season to save money.
John Beasley, University of Georgia Extension peanut agronomist, recently reminded producers of issues to consider when saving seed. First, a few varieties are patented cultivars, particularly those with the high oleic trait, and it is illegal to save seed from these varieties under Federal law. Patented varieties include Georgia 02C, Georgia 09B, FloRun 107, Florida 07 and AT 215.
Other peanut varieties fall under the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Act. A grower can save seed of a PVP cultivar to use on his/her farm; however, it is illegal to sell seed under PVP to another grower. These varieties include Georgia 06G, Georgia 07W, Georgia Green and TifGuard. Permission from a sheller would be needed to save seed from contracted peanuts.
Peanuts being considered for seed should have been grown on irrigated land and should have had 1,000 pounds per acre or more gypsum applied, both of which directly affect germination.
Seed must also be stored properly to prevent deterioration from climate or insects. Peanuts need to be shelled, screened, treated and bagged, and not all shellers provide seed-shelling services. A sample of the seed will need a germination test, preferably by an official seed lab, such as the Georgia Department of Agriculture Seed Lab in Tifton.
Beasley stressed that a last-minute decision to save seed, without taking into account legal issues, growing conditions and storage considerations, can be more costly in the long run. For those wanting to save seed, start by talking with a county Extension agent.
A Better Way To Grade Being Tested
New technology is being developed that could revolutionize the way peanuts are graded. USDA is now testing an X-ray machine made in Belgium. The X-ray grading machine is being tested for the next two months to see if it will be bringing a new era to peanut grading.
Peanut grading has not changed much since it was first conducted in the 1940s. Scientists from the National Peanut Research Lab in Dawson, Ga., were asked by the industry to develop a better way that required less labor.
The BestRay X-ray machine will be tested from South Georgia to New Mexico this harvest season. What it currently takes six people and more than 10 minutes to do now, the new grader can do with one person in about two minutes.
Hank Sheppard, USDA scientist, says, “It can tell you the size of every kernel that’s in the sample, so buyers will have a better understanding of what they are buying compared to the conventional method.” The machine does not show internal damage or aflatoxin.
The Georgia Federal State Inspection Service is tracking the testing of the machine before it is approved for use. If approved, the machines could be in use within a couple of years. Each machine costs about $70,000, but would pay for itself through savings on labor.
NPB Works To Calm Consumer Fears About Price Increase
The National Peanut Board recently sent out a news release to help calm consumers’ fears about the rising price of peanut butter. The release was in response to figures announced by The J.M. Smucker Company, manufacturer of Jif®.
According to the NPB, based on Jif’s estimated price increase, a two-tablespoon serving of peanut butter may increase just about four cents, which still makes peanut butter a protein bargain that’s hard to beat.
“A combination of factors, including rising energy prices and severe heat and drought throughout peanut growing regions this year, are leading to a peanut crop that is smaller than last year. As a result, some peanut butter manufacturers have recently announced they expect to raise prices,” says NPB in the release.
“Ounce for ounce, sandwich for sandwich, you still can’t beat protein-packed peanut butter for value,” says registered dietitians Janice Newell Bissex and Liz Weiss, authors of the new family cookbook, No Whine with Dinner. “That’s as true today as it has ever been, as food costs across the board rise.”
The news release has already been picked up by several populous media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times.
Leadership Academy Tours Texas Production Area
Participants in the Peanut Leadership Academy, sponsored by Syngenta Crop Protection and the American Peanut Shellers Association, visited Texas recently to learn about their agricultural industry and gain further leadership training in communications and media relations.
The Academy, coordinated by the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, provides extensive leadership training for young farmers and sheller representatives in an effort to prime the next generation of industry leaders. They gain insight into obstacles facing the industry and learn leadership, media training and communication skills.
William Pearce, JLA’s Southeast ag systems manager, says, “It’s critical that we take advantage of opportunities to inform people and provide a clear and accurate message, otherwise we fail and miss the chance. As an industry, if we gather to share facts, become well-informed and understood, and listen to and appreciate the views of others, then we can become good communicators in any form.”
Participants came from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas for three days of training and exploring the area’s agricultural industry. Aaron Martin and Jarred Ericson, both from Brownfield, Texas, are enrolled in this year’s leadership program and were excited to show Southeast producers about Texas agriculture. The Academy toured Ericson’s farm to see his planting and harvesting equipment, peanut crop and how differently his operation is run.
“I think the greatest benefit of the program is learning the diversity of other farmers across the country,” Ericson said. “All producers face problems, but I’ve learned that we all deal with different types of problems.”
The Academy also toured the American Cotton Growers denim plant, Breedlove Foods Inc., Birdsong shelling facility, and a local vineyard.
TPPB Executive Director Shelly Nutt says the Academy is an asset to producers and a program the industry needs. “I think it’s crucial to maintaining a strong relationship for agriculture across the country because, by the end of the tour, leadership participants have walked in other producers’ shoes.”
Additional information about the Peanut Leadership Academy is available online at www.southernpeanutfarmers.org.
Top-Yielding Georgia Producers Recognized
The University of Georgia, Syngenta Crop Protection and BASF recently recognized the achievement of 11 esteemed Georgia producers at the Southern Peanut Growers Conference in Panama City Beach, Fla., for their induction into the Georgia Peanut Achievement Club.
The 2010 state winners in each category are: Kreg Freeman of Miller County in the 100 to 300 acres category and Al Sudderth in the 300 plus acres category. Freeman yielded 6,626 pounds per acre on 165 acres while Sudderth yielded 6,328 pounds per acre of 445 acres.
Winners in the 300 to 700 acres category are District I: Harold Hobbs, Lee County, and Mike Newberry, Early County. For District II, the winner is Gaines and Dowdy, Baker County. The District III winner is Hulin Reeves, Jr., Ben Hill County, and for District IV, the winner is Phillip Grimes, Tift County.
In the 700 plus acre category, the district winners include: District 1: Peavy Brothers Farm, Randolph County; District II: Jeff and Jerry Heard, Baker County; District III: Ken Hall Farms, Worth County; District IV: Wayne Sayer, Irwin County.
“It was an outstanding year for these producers, despite very difficult growing conditions throughout most of the crop year,” says John Beasley, University of Georgia peanut agronomist. “This is the first time in history that out of the 17 entries in the Georgia Peanut Achievement Club more than half averaged over 6,000 pounds per acre.”