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July 30, 2001   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
July 30, 2001

The House Agriculture Committee began mark-up of the new ten-year federal farm bill July 26, agreeing on the specifics of the new peanut program title which protect growers and the peanut industry from Washington opponents and cheap foreign imports, Congressman Terry Everett, R-Enterprise, said.

Everett, chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Specialty Crops and Foreign Agriculture Programs (which oversees federal peanut policy), was instrumental in drafting the new peanut program language which was adopted July 27 in committee.

"Forces are combining to bring about the end of the peanut program and we must respond to protect the growers and the industry," Everett said. "The new peanut program language addresses the main concerns of the current program's growing bi-partisan political opposition in Washington while also protecting the growers from the rise in foreign peanut imports.

"Starting in 2004, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will allow unlimited access to peanuts and peanut butter from Mexico. In addition, similar access could be given to other Latin American countries through the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement. We must have a peanut program that addresses this surge in cheap imported peanuts and does not attract continual political opposition in the Halls of Congress.

"Peanut producers, shellers and manufacturers alike have testified before my subcommittee this summer that the time to change the peanut program is now. Having all three segments of the industry together is a historic feat and demonstrates the need for this change to occur so that the domestic peanut industry can stay viable."

The new peanut title adopted in committee Thursday would phase out the current peanut quota system over five years, providing quota holders a 10 cent-a-pound buy-out for their quota peanuts over the five-year period. Furthermore, the program would be transformed into a market loan structure whereby the federal government guarantees growers a $350-a-ton market loan payment, while setting the domestic peanut target price at $480-a-ton. In addition, growers would receive a $36-a-ton fixed decoupled payment.

"By gradually removing the political bull's eye from the peanut program, we are able retain a program which can be profitable for growers and avoid further attack. The shift to a market loan program will also ensure that growers can make a profit in the face of rising foreign imports."

The new peanut title is part of the new 10-year Farm Bill which is expected to be cleared the House Agriculture Committee last week and is expected to be voted on by Congress in September.

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