A group of peanut quota holders has voted overwhelmingly to support a class-action lawsuit challenging portions of the new farm bill they claim will devalue their land and rob them of assets.
“Sometimes you have to take a stand,” said grower Wilbur Gamble of Dawson, Ga. “When you do what your government tells you is legal and then they retroactively take it from you, I think that is wrong.”
The new farm bill abolished the decades-old peanut quota system and replaced it with a marketing loan concept program, similar to those used for other row crops.
About 170 of the 600-member Peanut Quota Holders Association met in June at the Albany, Ga., Civic Center and agreed to back a lawsuit that challenges the amount of compensation they would receive for their lost quota and the government's right to deprive them of the asset.
Association officials have asked attorneys William S. Stone of Blakely and David Boone of Atlanta to represent the quota holders. Both attorneys addressed the crowd of quota holders.
“The government always has a right to take property for public purposes, but they have to pay you a fair price,” said Stone.
Estimates for the value of peanut quota range from 75 cents to $1.10 per pound, well above the 55 cents the government will pay under the new farm bill.
Under the old system, quota holders were guaranteed $610 per ton for peanuts produced for domestic consumption. Additional peanuts — sold for export or oil — were guaranteed at a price of $132 per ton.
Under the new program a base will determine each grower's federal crop-support payments.
Many quota holders are widows and retired farmers who have rented their quota. The rental fees provided retirement income and cash for property taxes. But, because they didn't actually grow peanuts, they won't qualify for a base under the new farm bill.