What is in this article?:
• 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.
Would have funded research
The proposed increase from $2 to $3 per ton of peanuts would have helped peanut farmers through additional funding opportunities for peanut research, he says.
Koehler says research is a cornerstone program of the commission and one in which it funds approximately $254,000 annually.
For 2011-2012, 27 research projects were approved from proposals submitted by the University of Georgia, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Fort Valley State and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
On the heels of the increased assessment rejection, it was announced that the budget at the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson had been cut by approximately 20 percent, eliminating four scientific positions.
Speaking of the assessment vote, Koehler says commission members and Extension peanut specialists traveled throughout the state prior to the referendum. “We traveled to every peanut county to talk with growers about the assessment, and our Extension specialist explained that he had no travel or phone budget from the university, only salary and benefits.”
To deal with the rejection of the assessment increase and the decreased acreage this year, Koehler says his staff has been asked to look for places to cut within the current budget. While the commission’s research budget already has been approved for this year, those who received research funding are being asked to make cuts wherever possible, he says.
“Looking forward, we have to ask ourselves how we might do a better job of telling this story and getting the message to farmers. We need to improve our response from the 25 percent plus four that voted, and we won’t be satisfied until we get 100 percent.
“I heard from one of the largest growers in Georgia who had figured exactly what that extra $1 would mean to his operation, and he said it’s time we made the investment. And I heard from another grower who was viewing it as a tax increase — it’s not a tax increase.
“It’s an investment in research that will ultimately benefit the grower. Our new peanut varieties, which were largely funded through the grower dollars of the commission, made farmers enough more money to pay back every dollar ever invested in the commission in its 49-year existence.”
There’s a reaffirmation vote of the commission coming up next year, and there has to be a 12-month period between referendums, so Koehler says he isn’t sure when the board will decide to again ask for an increase in the assessment.
With a soaring federal deficit and a Congress poised to make drastic budget cuts, it’s evident that if growers want to continue research efforts, they’ll have to bear more of the responsibility themselves.