By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Reporter
Sen. Pete Domenici said while he is optimistic about the peanut and agriculture industry in New Mexico, much remains to be accomplished as the Senate prepares to take up the 2007 Farm Bill.
Domenici, R-N.M., met Tuesday with area peanut producers at Sunland Inc. to discuss the Farm Bill.
Area peanut producers are pushing lawmakers to reauthorize peanut storage and handling funding, a measure critical to peanut producers in New Mexico, producers say.
Without the provision, peanut producers could lose $50 to $60 per ton of peanuts, local peanut farmer and New Mexico Peanut Growers Association Chairman Wayne Baker said.
“Despite challenges, New Mexico’s agriculture industry is still going strong and making valuable contributions to the nation’s farming and food industry,” said Domenici.
Domenici toured Sunland’s peanut butter operation, which employs approximately 150 individuals from the Portales area who roast, shell, and produce peanuts and peanut butter. New Mexico’s peanut industry is a $50 million cash crop and serves as the nation’s primary source of Valencia peanuts.
Peanut provisions in the new Farm Bill will largely resemble provisions enacted under the 2002 Farm Bill. The marketing loan rate for peanuts will remain $355 per ton, the same as the loan rate in the current legislation.
The 2002 Farm Bill included a provision that replaced peanut growers’ quotas with a marketing loan program as part of the move away from restrictive quotas to a more competitive peanut program.
“We want farmers to respond to a market program, not a government program,” Baker said.