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Peanut Farmers End Season With ‘Average’ Crop

November 12, 1996

ALBANY, Ga. (AP) _ Georgia peanut growers, some hurt by drought and others helped by rain, turned out only a so-so crop this year.

Accounting for 40 percent of the nation’s peanuts, the farmers harvested about 533,000 acres this year, compared with 593,000 acres last year.

Peanuts appear to be selling for $650 per ton, $40 above the government support price, said Jerry Usry, executive director of the 3,400-member Georgia Peanut Producers Association.

``Overall, this was a pretty good year,″ Usry said Monday. ``In some areas we had the best crop ever. But in some areas they’ve had absolutely disastrous conditions and didn’t even harvest.″

As the harvest ended last week, only 41 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent, while 59 percent was billed as fair to very poor.

Tyron Spearman, editor of a peanut marketing newsletter, said growers faced a July drought and a severe outbreak of tomato spotted wilt virus. The disease, spread by small flying insects, causes plants to wither and die.

``It’s been an unusual season, both weather-wise and market-wise,″ he said. ``The weather brought isolated disasters, while other counties received rain and had excellent yields.″

Spearman said he expects average yields of 2,600 pounds per acre this year, compared with 2,870 pounds last year.

Growers also had to deal with new rules in the 1995 farm bill which resulted in fewer peanuts.

Price supports on quota peanuts _ those grown for the domestic market _ were cut from $678 to $610 per ton. Lower demand reduced the total amount farmers could grow from nearly 1.4 million tons last year to 1.1 million tons this year.

The Georgia peanuts crop has an average yearly value of $500 million.