The recent vote by the U.S. House of Representatives Agricultural Committee to approve a five-year, $500 billion farm bill has encouraged Georgia peanut growers and given them hope some legislation will be decided on this year.

However, UGA peanut specialists say there is still a lot of work to be done before they know specifics about what farmers can expect.

Last year Congress decided to extend the 2008 farm bill by one year, as no new legislation was agreed upon. John Beasley, a peanut agronomist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, said knowing what the future holds is key for farmers who need to plan for the year ahead.

 “Growers want some sort of bill just so they’ll know the rules and regulations which they’re operating under,” said Beasley.

“It’s always a challenge to get a crop planted and not know where it’s going. Going into the winter, we were out talking to farmers, sharing research, and most weren’t sure how many acres they needed to plant. They weren’t sure about crop rotation and the financial end of it. And our lending institutions are reluctant to provide capital if they don’t know where it’s going.”

The bills produced by the agricultural committees in both the U.S. House and Senate are similar, said UGA Peanut Economist Nathan Smith. Both bills eliminated direct payments, but they do provide some stabilization for rural economies.

“The loss of the direct payment program wasn’t really unexpected,” Smith said. “With the budget deficit and everything that has come out of the super committee and the fact that the 2008 farm bill was extended out for this year, we thought that farmers would lose direct payments.

“But there is some choice for producers with the choice between the price loss program and the shallow loss program. That’s something new and something that should be good for our farmers.”

Smith added that revenue insurance is relied on heavily by corn and grain growers in other parts of the country but does not benefit Southern growers as much. While he is encouraged by the progress in Washington, Smith believes there are still some serious discussions to be had.