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Farmers talk technology, commodities at peanut show(update with video)

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

Albany, Ga. -- Despite two years of bumper crops, Georgia peanut officials say they are still concerned about rising fuel prices high equipment costs and the future of farming in general.

More than 1,500 farmers were expected to walk through and browse some of the 75 exhibits at the the peanut show which was held at the Albany Civic Center.

Ronald Dawson, show chair for the Georgia Peanut Commission said that it's a good time to be a peanut farmer.

After back-to-back years of record crop yields, Dawson said the industry is doing well.

"Some areas of the state have been hit with dry weather unfortunately, but overall, the peanut industry is doing well," Dawson said.

Those yields, he said, are due in large part to new seed varieties that are now available and are producing much larger yields than just a decade ago.

"Farmers are taking their check-off dollars and have put them into research and researchers are coming up with these new varieties, that's one thing that is keeping us profitable," he said.

And while the peanut industry is doing well today, Dawson and the rest of the peanut industry knows full well the volatility that can occur when they are so largely dependent on variables such as nature, the commodities market and the economy.

With Rising fuel prices and loans still hard to come by, Dawson says that work is still needed in Washington to ensure farmers receive the help they need.

"We need a safety net for those years when we have low commodity prices," Dawson said. "To be able to stay in business, you have to be able to go through the good times and the bad times."

Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss, who was in Albany Thursday, said that he understands the needs and concerns of the farmers and said that while farm programs and subsidies are on the table for cuts to reduce the national deficit, they're not exactly at the top of the list.

"Agriculture is not going to be left out of the mix when it comes to the discussion of how to fix this issue of the deficit, we spend way too much money in Washington, but the fact of the matter is that the amount of money we spend on agriculture is fairly minimal, particularly when we have a safety net like we have right now ... due primarily to the prices of commodities on the market," Chambliss said. "That's where farmers want their income. They don't want to get checks from Washington, they want to get their money from the marketplace."

While Georgia once was known as the state where cotton was king, peanuts have become one of the state's largest staples for economic stability.

According to recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 45 percent of the nation's peanut supply comes directly from Georgia. That number jumps to 75 percent when you factor the rest of the Sun Belt into the mix, including Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee.

But it's not just farmers who are looking to cash in on the current strength of the crops. Entrepreneurs are adapting and leaping into the agricultural industry at a fast clip.

Allen Reynolds of Southern AGCOM, Inc., says that they're finding a positive response among farmers for their fabrication and agricultural engineering services.

"It's been a good year," Reynolds said. "You know in Blakely we're in a strong peanut-producing area and have found that there are needs that we think we can meet for the farmers in the area."

In Tifton, officials with Kelley Manufacturing say they have weathered the recession and think the market for farm implements and machinery is on the uptick.