The U.S. Department of Agriculture continues the long process of implementing a new peanut quality program as outlined in the 2002 farm bill. In its latest move, the USDA appointed a new Peanut Standards Board.

Under the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, all peanuts marketed in the United States must be officially inspected and graded by federal inspectors or federally licensed state inspectors. Imported peanuts will be subject to the same quality and handling standards as domestically produced peanuts.

The new farm bill terminates the existing Peanut Administrative Committee and requires USDA to appoint a new Peanut Standards Board comprised of members of the peanut industry. USDA will consult with the board before establishing or changing quality and handling standards for domestically produced and imported peanuts.

In order to insure the quality of peanuts marketed during the transition period from the peanut marketing agreement to the new peanut quality program, current requirements under the marketing agreement will continue to apply while quality and handling standards are being written to implement the new peanut program.

The regulations under the companion programs for imported and domestic peanuts not covered under the marketing agreement also will apply. However, under the transition to the new program, assessments on the 2002 crop will not be collected from peanut handlers.

In addition, USDA has announced the following actions: 1) the appointment of 18 persons to serve as interim members of the new Peanut Standards Board; 2) termination of the existing Peanut Administrative Committee effective July 1; and 3) designation of trustees to locally administer the mandatory peanut inspection program until new regulations are established.

The interim producer-members appointed to the new standards board are: James E. Godwin of Camilla, Ga.; Wes Shannon of Tifton, Ga.; Walter L. Corcoran of Eufaula, Ala.; Dan J. Hunter of Gorman, Texas; Billy F. Coe of Hydro, Okla.; Harvey Schneider of Pleasanton, Texas; Thomas R. Cotton Jr. of Franklin, Va.; C. Frank Jordan of Suffolk, Va.; and Lennie P. Hinton Jr., of Hobbsville, N.C.

The interim industry representatives appointed to the new standards board are: Dennis R Finch of Opp, Ala.; Joseph A. Parker of Eufaula, Ala.; Sally Tabb Wells of Blakely, Ga.; Byron Warnken of Pleasanton, Texas; Alan L. Ortloff of Madill, Okla.; Robert T. Parker IV of De Leon, Texas; Charles R. Birdsong of Suffolk, Va.; Dallas Barnes of Severn, N.C.; and Linda Lee of Windsor, N.C.

These interim board members will serve for a period not to exceed 180 days. During that time, USDA will announce nomination procedures and appoint members to serve terms of up to three years on the new Peanut Standards Board. In the meantime, USDA, will notify all handlers and importers of any changes to the existing program.