Peanut producers today are enjoying the fruits of years of sustained and intensive research on their behalf, including high-yielding varieties that are resistant to disease, water management strategies and countless other advances that have boosted production while, in many cases, reducing inputs.

But some of this progress may come to a screeching halt if recent trends continue. Over a period of just a few weeks this spring, peanut research in Georgia took a one-two punch, as budget cuts at the national level forced the elimination of four positions at the National Peanut Research Laboratory and the state’s growers rejected an increased assessment for their commission that would have provided additional funding for research.

Add to it the fact that over the past five to seven years, peanut research and Extension positions have been lost in the state while no replacements were hired, and some see a looming crisis.

“We could be looking at a real train wreck 10 years from now,” says Don Koehler, executive director of the Georgia Peanut Commission. “To get a meaningful result from research takes a minimum of four years. Typically, it takes six to eight or 10 to 12 years.”

But the results of previous cutbacks in peanut research and Extension already are evident in Georgia, he adds. “We had significant burrower bug damage last year, and we don’t have an entomologist on staff to help with the problem.

“Also, there’s no physiologist working in peanuts, and there’s a lot about these new varieties we don’t know. Specialists who are working in peanuts are being asked to take on more commodities,” says Koehler.

This past May, Georgia’s peanut farmers rejected a proposal to increase the annual Georgia Peanut Commission assessment by $1. A total of 1,124 ballots were counted with 56.2 percent voting in favor of the increase. According to Georgia law, the Georgia Peanut Commission needs at least 25 percent of the state’s peanut farmers to vote with 66.67 percent majority, so the referendum failed.

“We were disappointed that we only received four ballots over the 25 percent needed to count the ballots,” says Koehler. “We had 75 percent of the growers who did not vote.”