The projected large acreage cut in peanuts and the continued downward spiral in cotton acreage in the Southeast is creating economic problems for rural economies from Henry County, Ala., to Bertie County, N.C.

At a time when politicians preach loudly about restoring the rural economy, it appears small businesses in dozens of towns and counties that depend on cotton and peanuts as integral parts of the local economy will be further damaged by these projected acreage cuts in 2013.

The ripple effect carries over to government and Land-Grant university research and Extension programs, which are already financially stressed due to the ongoing recession and recovery.

If history is a good indicator, tearing down the infrastructure of an industry is considerably easier than building it back.

There is a real possibility that peanut acreage could be cut by half from historical levels of the past decade.

Cotton may see another 15-20 percent cut in acreage, driven by uncertainties over foreign markets and depressed prices. These economic realities continue to influence growers to find alternative crops.

At biggest risk are farmers, but few usually consider the risk to major agricultural companies which bear the majority of the weight for the infrastructure of these crop-based economies.

Lee Rivenbark is vice-president of global cotton and U.S. seed operations for Bayer CropScience. Though now headquartered in Lubbock, Texas, he grew up on a farm near Columbia, Ala., in Henry County and at the epicenter of cotton and peanut production in southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia.

The Bayer executive knows first-hand the impact reduced cotton and peanut acreage has on businesses both big and small.