Saturday, April 13, 2024

News Briefs: March 2024

Opposition Raised To Changing The Reference Price

Farm groups have met with members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees in Washington D.C. and urged leaders to raise reference prices in the new Farm Bill since costs of production have surpassed levels approved by Congress eight years ago.

While farm groups have been making their case, a group of U.S. Representatives have written a letter in opposition to any potential increases, saying that any increase would only drive up inflation. U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) was joined by Reps. Andy Ogles (R-TN); Brian Mast (R-FL); Andy Biggs (R-AZ); Carol Miller (R-WV) and Nancy Mace (R-SC) in co-signing the letter.

“At a time when Congress must take steps to reduce federal spending, we must resist costly attempts to expand the scope of government intervention in the free market,” said Rep. Mooney.

The letter was supported by The Club for Growth, Competitive Markets Action and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste. Their arguments are that these higher-price guarantees mostly benefit fewer than 6,000 farms in a few states, and any increases would benefit less than 0.3% of farming operations. The letter emphasized that increased price guarantees for major crops would mostly benefit farmers of peanuts, cotton and rice in Southern states, not corn and soybean farmers.

Attempt Made To Freeze H-2A Rates

U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) led nine Republican colleagues in sending a letter to leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees slamming the increase in Adverse Effect Wage Rates. Sen. Tuberville and his colleagues are requesting language in an upcoming appropriations package to freeze H-2A wage rates at the January 2023 levels and reinstate the 14-day delay between the AEWR rate posting and the implementation period. The AEWR increase furthers the financial burdens on employers who utilize the H-2A program.

“The recent 2024 AEWR increase imposes significant financial strains upon employers who utilize agricultural guest workers, yet many employers do not have another option as they depend upon the H-2A program for a reliable workforce,” said the Senators. “As the demand for H-2A labor remains strong, employers who utilize the program generally agree that without additional labor from guest workers, American producers could not efficiently plant or harvest crops.”

Industry supporters of this letter include: American Farm Bureau Federation, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, International Fresh Produce Association, AmericanHort, North American Blueberry Council, National Cotton Council, U.S. Peanut Federation, USA Rice, National Pecan Federation, Southern Cotton Growers, Southeast Cotton Ginners Association, Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA), Alabama Nursery & Landscape Association, Alabama Peanut Producers Association and Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.

Sen. Tuberville was joined in the letter by Sens. Jim Risch (R-ID), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Rick Scott (R-FL), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tom Tillis (R-NC), Mike Braun (R-IN), Ted Budd (R-NC) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY).

Select Program By March 15

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that agricultural producers can now enroll in the Farm Service Agency’s Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs for the 2024 crop year. The deadline to complete enrollment and make any changes is March 15, 2024.

“Having the Farm Bill extension in place means business as usual for Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage program implementation for the 2024 crop year— nothing has changed from previous years,” says FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux. “These programs provide critical financial protections against commodity market volatilities for many American farmers, so don’t delay enrollment. Avoid the rush and contact your local FSA office for an appointment because even if you are not changing your program election for 2024, you still need to sign a contract to enroll.”

ARC and PLC are part of a broader USDA safety net that also includes crop insurance and marketing assistance loans. Producers are reminded that ARC and PLC elections and enrollments can impact eligibility for some crop insurance products.  Producers on farms with a PLC election can purchase a supplemental coverage option through their approved insurance provider; however, producers on farms where ARC is the election are ineligible for the supplemental coverage option on their planted acres for that crop on that farm.

New NPB Chairman Arkansas Producer Greg Baltz

Greg Baltz

Greg Baltz of Pocahontas, Arkansas, was recently elected the 2024 National Peanut Board chairman. Baltz’s tenure has included roles as vice chairman, treasurer and secretary. Baltz and his wife Mary Nell own and operate Running Lake Farms and have been growing peanuts for 13 years. He farms runner peanuts, rice, corn and soybeans.

“I’m honored to hold this position as the chairman of NPB,” Baltz said “and am humbled by the support of the Board. My approach will be to make certain that NPB never skips a beat in advancing its mission to improve the economic condition of U.S. peanut farmers and their families through compelling promotion and groundbreaking research. My commitment as chairman is to work alongside our new President and CEO Ryan Lepicier and his staff to achieve these goals.”

The Baltzes have been married for 45 years and have three married children pursuing their own successful careers.

Baltz graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in agricultural engineering. He serves on the University of Arkansas College of Engineering Dean’s Advisory Council, as well as the Division of Agriculture Rice Processing Program. He is a current member and former county president of Farm Bureau, and past president of the University of Arkansas Academy of Biological and Agricultural Engineers. Baltz is a former executive officer and member of the Board of Directors of the Knights of Columbus. He is a member of the Arkansas Peanut Growers Association and Black River Technical College Ag Advisory Committee. In their spare time, the Baltzes enjoy traveling.

NPB is made up of farmers whose mission is to improve the economic condition of U.S. peanut farmers and their families through compelling promotion and groundbreaking research.

Peanut Proud Festival Still Going Strong In Blakely, Georgia

Early County’s 16th annual Peanut Proud Festival will take place March 23 on the town square in Blakely. The day-long celebration begins with a 5k and Fun Run. Also planned for the festival are a parade, more than 100 vendors, a kids’ peanut butter obstacle course, free entertainment and more. Stop by to sample such delicacies as fried peanuts and grilled PB&J sandwiches. Go to peanutproudfestival.com for more details.

Boddiford Remains As GPC Chairman

Joe Boddiford, peanut farmer from Sylvania, Georgia, was elected chairman of the Georgia Peanut Commission during the January monthly board meeting. This is Boddiford’s third consecutive term serving as chairman. He previously served as chairman in 2000.

“I look forward to working with Georgia peanut farmers and our industry partners to help enhance the peanut industry and the profitability of farmers,” Boddiford says. “Farmers can contact me at any time if they have suggestions for the work of the Georgia Peanut Commission on their behalf.”

Other officers elected during the board meeting include Donald Chase, Oglethorpe, Georgia, as vice chairman, and Rodney Dawson, Hawkinsville, Georgia, as treasurer. Additional board members include Tim Burch, Newton, Georgia, representing district 1 and Ross Kendrick, Sycamore, Georgia, representing district 2.

The Georgia peanut production area is divided into five districts based on acreage distribution and geographical location with one board member representing each district.

The Georgia Peanut Commission represents more than 4,500 peanut farm families in the state and conducts programs in the areas of research, promotion and education. For more information on the programs of the Georgia Peanut Commission, visit www.gapeanuts.com.

Delta Peanut Seeks CEO

The board of directors for Delta Peanut in Jonesboro, Arkansas, announced recently they have initiated a search for a permanent CEO. Board member and grower-owner, Jeremy Baltz, who has been serving as the Interim CEO, has achieved the objectives he and the board established for his interim role and are now looking forward to adding a permanent CEO to its leadership team.

According to the board, during 2023, the grower-owners planted and harvested Delta Peanut’s largest crop to date. Under Baltz’ leadership, Delta Peanut increased efficiencies and achieved record production levels at our buying points and shelling plant while improving the consistency and manufacturing quality of the peanuts look forward to continuing to be part of Delta Peanut’s success for years to come. Baltz will continue to serve as interim CEO through the transition and will stay on the board of directors, thereafter.

For information, call 870-932-2222 or email info@deltapeanut.com.

Leadership Academy Class Meets

Twenty-seven peanut growers and sheller representatives from across the Southeast, Arkansas, Texas and the Virginia-Carolina area began Class XIII of the Peanut Leadership Academy Jan. 8-11, 2024, in Savannah, Georgia. The Peanut Leadership Academy is hosted by the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation and is a cooperative effort between Syngenta Crop Protection, the American Peanut Shellers Association and grower organizations. The program began in 1998 with the first class of 14 peanut growers from Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Since then, the academy has grown to include farmers from Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and sheller representatives.

Activities in the leadership program are structured to give participants a thorough understanding of the U.S. peanut industry. Throughout the course of 18 months and five sessions, program attendees participate in sessions ranging from field trips, meetings with industry leaders and professional development training, as well as one session in Washington, D.C., where class members have an opportunity to visit with members of Congress about issues affecting the peanut industry. During this time, class members build on leadership skills, discuss and debate key industry issues and build relationships.

During the first session, the class members participated in leadership team building skills, etiquette training and learned more about the entire peanut industry while joining the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation annual meeting. Participants in PLA Class XIII include: Cutchin Anderson, Tarboro, North Carolina; Eric Bailey, Waverly, Virginia; Emmanuel Bankston with Golden Peanut; Miles Birdsong with Birdsong Peanuts; Sean Brannen, Statesboro, Georgia; and August Cassebaum of Lillian, Alabama.

Also participating are Jay Corte, Daphne, Alabama; Riley Davis, Parrott, Georgia; Garrett Dixon, Salem, Alabama; Heath Donner, Manila, Arkansas; Trevor Dyer with Sandy Land Peanut; Henry Froese, Seagraves, Texas; Lonnie Gilbert, Marianna, Florida; Chad Harris with Olam; Judson Hornsby, Iron City, Georgia; Douglas Jarrell, Estill, South Carolina; Cason Kirkland with Premium Peanut; Will Krause, Unadilla, Georgia; Kirk Martin, Brownfield, Texas; Daniel McMillan, Enigma, Georgia; Jess McNeill, Americus, Georgia; Phillip Melvin, Altha, Florida; Travis Mixon, Dothan, Alabama; Garrett Moore, Chancellor, Alabama; Cody Robinson, Williston, Florida; Chase Trimble with Coastal Growers; and Emily Williams with the National Peanut Board.

For more information on the Peanut Leadership Academy, contact PLA director Jessie Bland at jessie@gapeanuts.com or visit www.southernpeanutfarmers.org

Alabama/Florida Growers Enjoy Trade Show

Peanut growers from Alabama and Florida were able to fine-tune their farming operations with information gained at the Alabama-Florida Peanut Trade Show Feb. 1, 2024 at the National Peanut Festival fairgrounds in Dothan, Alabama. The trade show was hosted by Alabama Peanut Producers Association and Florida Peanut Producers Association and sponsored by National Peanut Board with the The National Peanut Festival as the venue sponsor. More than 400 peanut growers and industry partners from Alabama and Florida attended to view industry products and services offered by more than 60 exhibitors.

Researchers from Auburn University and the University of Florida were on hand to showcase the peanut research they are working on with the support of grower check-off dollars. Growers could talk to the researchers one-on-one about the research projects.

During the lunch program, attendees heard from Greg Baltz, chairman of the National Peanut Board and an Arkansas peanut farmer, and Ryan Lepecier, the newly appointed President and CEO of the National Peanut Board. Bob Redding of the Redding Firm delivered a legislative update via video. Senator Tommy Tuberville shared greetings to the growers via video as well. Dr. Marshall Lamb, from the National Peanut Research Lab, spoke to growers about the 2024 peanut market outlook.

The Grand Door Prize, provided by Kelley Manufacturing Co., of a $5,000 voucher that can be used toward $5,000 off the price of any one piece of equipment or for $5,000 worth of parts for KMC equipment was won by Dennis McCord of Cottonwood, Alabama. Myron Johnson of Headland, Alabama, won a free trip to the 2024 Southern Peanut Growers Conference in July. Ashley Kelley of Andalusia, Alabama, won a Steoger 12-gauge shotgun.

Georgia Recognizes Industry Leaders At Farm Show

In mid-January, peanut growers from around Georgia gathered at the Georgia Peanut Farm Show & Conference at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Conference Center. More than 800 participants had the opportunity to learn about research, products and the latest trends in the peanut industry. During the show, the Georgia Peanut Commission presented several awards to those who have contributed to the advancement of the peanut industry.

Awards presented include the following:

Distinguished Service Award – John T. Powell, executive director, American Peanut Shellers Association

Research and Education Award – Dr. Glen Harris, UGA professor and Extension peanut team

Media Award – Dal Cannady, WTOC-TV, Savannah.

Outstanding Young Peanut Farmer – Mallory Harvey, Appling County

Outstanding Georgia Peanut Farmers of the Year – District 1: Donald Shirah, Camilla; District 2: Gerald Fowler, Sycamore; District 3: Lee Cromley, Brooklet: District 4: Sam Crenshaw, Cordele: District 5: Presented posthumously to Richard Morrison, Lumpkin.

At the close of the day, the grand door prize donated by Kelley Manufacturing Co. was awarded to Jim Deen, Broxton, Georgia. Deen received one season’s use of a new KMC peanut combine and the option of purchasing the combine from a KMC dealer with $15,000 off the list price at the end of the 2024 season, as well as a cash prize.

Amadas Industries provided the grower door prize to Zach Brown, Sumner, Georgia, and Ted O’Steen, Ambrose, Georgia. Brown received a customized Grizzly cooler and a certificate towards the purchase of a new Amadas self-propelled peanut combine, pull-type peanut combine, peanut digger or peanut dump cart. O’Steen received a customized Grizzly cooler and a certificate for Amadas parts.

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