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Peanut farmers to others in US: `Try our program of price, supply controls'

Billy Griggs has a solution for the farm crunch: peanuts. ``I think other commodities ought to target their programs to peanuts,'' he says. ``It works.''

Here in south Georgia, the peanut program rates highly with farmers. ``That's the only reason that any of us is here [surviving] right now,'' says Jackie Busby.

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What sets it apart from other commodity programs is mandatory supply control. Farmers can sell only a certain quantity of peanuts at a high price. They can grow more, but only for special uses and at lower prices.

The result? A fair chance that farmers can earn a profit. That's a far cry from the Kansas wheat farmer, who is free to choose how much he grows but is also harder pressed these days to make a profit.

Most economists dislike mandatory supply control, saying the marketplace is more efficient than government. But times are so hard for many farmers that some observers and surveys point to growing support for the idea. The new farm program calls for a nonbinding poll of wheat farmers on the question.

Support seems to be building in the Great Plains, says Harold Guither, an agricultural policy professor at the University of Illinois. But the majority of farmers nationwide didn't support the idea two years ago in a multistate poll and probably wouldn't again, he says, because of a culture of independence and wide regional differences.

``Some of them say they'll do it, but I just kind of wonder,'' says Wayne Rasmussen, historian for the US Department of Agriculture.

Rigid controls were dismantled in the 1950s and discredited in the early '60s, when wheat farmers soundly voted down a plan to bring them back.

But in south Georgia, the idea sits just fine with many farmers.

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``Supply management is all that's going to work in the farm program,'' says Terrell Hudson.

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