Davis: Don’t change peanut program that works for farmers and our communities
As a sixth generation farmer whose family has farmed the same land since 1818, my family has experienced all the highs and lows of farming imaginable.
When my grandparents and parents farmed peanuts throughout the 20th century, you sank or swam by what you grew. You didn’t know what you could sell your crop for – or even if you could sell it – until long after you had planted.
While peanut farming is still unpredictable, today’s Farm Bill’s Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program, which began in 2014 and is otherwise known as the Peanut Program, promotes certainty over the longer-term. The PLC supports a reasonable reference price for growers and needs to be preserved in the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill.
Unlike most other commodities, peanuts are not publicly traded, which means peanut pricing is determined post-planting for nearly all farmers – long after they’ve heavily invested in their crop.
As with any other commodity, peanut farmers don’t control the market, and the Peanut Program brings a level of stability that keeps many farmers in business. It gives farmers the ability to borrow from lenders, contract with shellers, buy from chemical and feed companies, and invest in farm capital equipment. The Peanut Program serves as an important backstop, allowing us to plan for the long term. Without the Peanut Program, I believe that one-third of the farmers I know would go out of business, which would dramatically impact our communities.
As important as the Peanut Program is to farmers in our area and throughout the nation, it does not drive planting decisions. The market drives price and, thus, planting decisions. Today, demand for peanuts is growing and exceeding supply as product development and interest in the health benefits of peanuts reaches new heights. This means that the market price to farmers should increase and Peanut Program support to farmers, and cost to the government, will be minimal.
Given the important role the Peanut Program has for farmers and our communities throughout peanut country, it is baffling that a small group claiming to represent the interest of peanut farmers, the Florida Peanut Federation, is proposing to dramatically reduce the reference price within the Peanut Program. This would wreak chaos on our community, throughout Florida and in other peanut growing states.
If FPF has its way by lowering the reference price, many farmers in Jackson County wouldn’t grow peanuts and most likely would go out of business. I realize that is exactly what FPF wants, but creating havoc on all peanut farmers to only improve the ability of a select few to grow more peanuts is short-sighted.
The Peanut Program impacts my family and my community as well peanut farm families across the U.S. That’s why all of us — farmers and local businesses — must stand together in support of a fair reference price in the Peanut Program, so we can continue to enjoy market-based economic stability in our rural communities.
Michael Davis is a 6th generation farmer in Jackson County. He and his brother run Davis Farms.
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