Changes In Federal Program May Cost More Than Just 'Peanuts'
Posted August 23, 2002
RALEIGH, N.C. — A new farm bill is crunching the old federal peanut program. A quota system that guarantees $610 a ton will drop to $355, but it comes at a hefty price -- a $1.3 billion buyout.
Charles Harden, a ninth-generation farmer, said farmers do not know what to make of the changes because they have not seen the new rules yet.
"It's really going to be a total complete change from what we are used to," he said.
As part of the buyout, some quota owners will receive checks for $500,000. John Hood, of the John Locke Foundation, said the big checks are the price taxpayers need to pay to change an outdated system.
"You have to get out of the box of regulating how much farmers can grow and to whom they can sell it and at what price," he said.
Hood said reducing quotas and government subsidies will pay off in the long run for both farmers and taxpayers.
"The free enterprise system works. It works in every sector of the economy and it will work in peanuts," he said.
Bob Sutter, of the state's Peanuts Growers Association, disagrees. He said farmers will take a hit without consumers seeing any benefits.
"So in effect, the producer is taking a 50 percent cut in the price he gets for his peanuts and the American consumer is going to see no benefit from it," he said.
Officials with the Peanut Growers' Association believes the buyout could actually put some farmers out of business, which would end up hurting the economies of already struggling rural counties.