Farm Bill Faces Peanut Challenge
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ALBANY, Ga. (AP) _ Peanut quota holders, concerned the new farm bill will devalue their land and rob them of assets, voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to support a class-action lawsuit challenging portions of the law.
``Sometimes ... you have to take a stand,″ said grower Wilbur Gamble of Dawson. ``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 abolishes a Depression-era quota system that maintained lofty prices for American peanuts, recently more than double the world market rate.
About 170 of the 600-member Peanut Quota Holders Association met at the Albany 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.
``My husband and I worked 57 years for that _ not to have it taken away,″ said Bonnie Tabb, a widow who has a 1,650-acre farm near Newton, about 30 miles south of Albany.
``We bought the land, cleaned it up and put in all those irrigation systems and wells. We stayed in debt all those years. I paid off the last irrigation system four years after my husband’s death in 1990. Now, I’m faced with nothing.″
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 mostly elderly quota holders.
``The government always has a right to take property for public purposes, but they have to pay you a fair price,″ Stone said.
Estimates for the value of peanut quota ranged 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. Many growers did not have quotas. If they wanted to grow the higher priced peanuts, they had to rent land with peanut quota.
The alternative was to grow ``additional″ peanuts for export or oil at a guaranteed price of only $132 per ton, an unfair disparity to some congressional leaders.
The new farm bill, signed into law by President Bush last month, replaces the quota system with a base, which will determine each grower’s federal crop-support payments.