Monday, June 9, 2008

Travel; an expensive necessity

Travel is critical in the conduct of programs at the Commission just as it is in getting around from farm to farm and to the tractor or fertilizer dealer.

My trip to Atlanta last week to the Georgia Association of Broadcasters annual meeting left my tank on empty. It cost $70 to fill it up. The Crown Victorias we drive at the Commission get about 20 miles or a bit better on the highway. That is pretty good for a car like that. One area the current board has done to save expense is to buddy up and travel together wherever they can. They will meet at a central location and leave vehicles and carpool together. For Staff this has always been an option because we leave from one location.

That fill up and the news this morning that gas will be $5 by July, when our new fiscal year begins, sent a shiver up my spine. We are doing our budget this week and the board has struggled in the past trying to make ends meet. We have had essentially the same income since 1980 when the Commission assessment went to $2 per ton. I am proud to say that we have worked harder and smarter and have made this work. Our programs are some of the best conducted by any commodity organization anywhere. Our representation of our growers is enviable. Other commodity groups give me a hard time all the time about how much better of a deal we get than they do. This is because farmers set the policy and direction and staff gives its all to carry out the wishes of the board.

Let me give you just one example of how this pays. If we are successful in stopping USDA from cutting the loan rate on Runner peanuts by $7, and remember that the posted price to which contracts are tied is directly tied to the loan rate, we will have paid the grower's assessment for three and a half years. Continuing to deliver a positive return on investment is our focus.

Even with budget challenges fostered by increasing costs all around us I feel confident that we will have a great budget plan for the year when the board concludes on Thursday.

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