Farm bill concerns have southern growers mulling options

06/14/2012 04:26:00 PM
Tom Karst

Displeasure with the proposed 2012 farm bill has growers of cotton, rice and peanuts in the South crying foul, but a Georgia produce specialist doubts many will switch acreage to specialty crops.

The farm bill being considered in the Senate would end $5 billion direct payments that were issued whether or not growers planted crops. Instead, the 2012 farm bill relies on a mix of subsidies in crop insurance products. While corn and soybean growers appear pleased with the farm bill, some lawmakers say the new plan doesn’t work well with the price fluctuations experienced in the cotton and peanut markets.

While agriculture leaders in the Senate have said they will try to accommodate concerns of growers in the South, some have speculated that an ill-fitting farm bill could cause some Southern growers to switch to specialty crops.

Charles Hall, executive director of the LaGrange-based Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, said some peanut and cotton growers already plant vegetables. Still, he doesn’t anticipate much widespread change from cotton, peanuts and rice to labor-intensive specialty crops.

“Between labor for harvest and packing sheds, it is not something you start in one day,” Hall said.



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