We cannot express strongly enough how discouraging, frustrating, and totally unacceptable that we find the CBO estimated budget and the recommendations made by USDA for the 2007 farm bill,” stated peanut farmer and Western Peanut Growers Association (WPGA) President Ted Higginbottom at a recent grower meeting in Seminole.

WPGA members are urgently trying to get this message to Congress before it's too late and they are forced to close the doors on their operations.

The Bush administration recently unveiled the 2007 farm bill proposals that many farmers object to strongly.

“The 2007 farm bill will be a determining factor on how the peanut industry survives, and with the current proposals things do not look good,” said Higginbottom.

The current USDA proposals cut the adjusted gross income limit of a farmer by 92 percent, making many producers ineligible for the farm program benefits. The proposal also eliminates the three-entity rule, which currently allows farmers the option of using multiple entities for business purposes, and the administration would cap the amount of payments that could be received by an individual farmer or farmer and his spouse.

“Cutting out the three entity rule will severely cripple a lot of farmers and put some out of business,” Higginbottom said. “Lowering the payment limit could certainly put more farmers out of business because they would not be able to take advantage of an above average crop. Farmers must be able to play catch up once in a while after suffering through poor crop years.”

Support cuts

For peanut growers to stay in business, Higginbottom contends, the next farm bill must address the repayment rate and storage and handling costs. The current proposal lowers the peanut loan rate from $355 to $336 per ton and eliminates the storage and handling payment.

“The total impact is a dramatic cut in program support payments to the peanut industry, and that can have an effect on any person living in America,” Higginbottom said. “If I close the door to my business I will not need any more John Deere tractors; that will affect the manufacturer who is in Illinois. It is a trickle down effect that everyone will feel.” Higginbottom said.

The 2007 farm bill will affect every American - by affecting farms and ranches; soil and water; rural communities; taxes and the food we eat. The farm bill must invest in the future of rural America through proven, effective strategies such as entrepreneurial development, conservation, community development, encouraging new farmers, and building assets in rural areas.

“It is time for producers like myself to take action before it is too late,” Higginbottom said at the Seminole meeting. “We must remember that Congress, not the administration, will draft language and direct funding as it relates to farm policy and the 2007 farm bill. It is critical that everyone who has any kind of business in rural American contact their congressmen.”