PANAMA CITY, Fla. – A separate payment limit for peanuts and government footing the bill for storage and handling fees will be sticking points when the next farm bill debate begins, says a Washington lobbyist representing the peanut industry.

Bob Redding, The Redding Firm, addressed the 6th Annual Southern Peanut Growers’ Conference recently in Panama City, Florida, and urged growers to stay in touch with legislators.

“Although we had a slow start with the 2002 farm bill (The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002), the program has been smooth for producers since (that first year),” Redding said.

He said one disappointment comes from the mysterious formula USDA uses to develop the National Average Price. “We thought that formula would be available to producers,” Redding said. “It has not been. We will continue to push USDA to do the right thing,” he said.

Redding said farm-friendly legislators have managed to beat back payment limitations, most notably those from Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. “But they could come up again, and we expect they will be used against us (in the next farm bill debate).”

Redding said the industry, “probably is in good shape for the rest of this year and into 2005. But we may see payment limitations come up in 2006. And getting storage and handling fees included in the next farm bill will be difficult.”

Redding said a recent attempt by Minnesota Congressman Mark Kennedy to eliminate the payment, “was a surprise. We want to determine if that was USDA policy,” he said.

He’s also concerned about cuts in the USDA agricultural research service budget.

He said work on the appropriations bill could also hurt agriculture. “We expect across-the-board cuts.” Conservation could be one area taking hits, he said.

Redding said debate on the next farm bill may include other mechanisms for grower payments, loan repayment rates, and handling and storage fees.

“It will be crucial for producers to stay in touch with key legislators,” he said.

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com