Peanut Show speakers discuss allergies and farm bill
By Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau
Peanut producers and industry allies attending the 46th Annual Georgia Peanut Show Jan 19 heard updates on numerous policy issues from various speakers during the event lunch.
National Peanut Board President & CEO Bob Parker encouraged members of the peanut sector to submit comments before Feb. 21 asking the USDA Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) to include peanut butter in the food packages given to families through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Parker explained that the USDA FNS has proposed updates to its food package program that do not include peanut butter, which research has shown should be introduced to infants beginning as early as 4-6 months help prevent peanut allergies. The early introduction of peanut-containing foods is encouraged in the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans and by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Allergies are the biggest single barrier too peanut consumption,” Parker said. “Research has shown that giving children a little bit of peanut butter starting between four and six months of age reduces their risk of developing a peanut allergy by up to 86 percent. Early introduction of peanuts to children has the potential to prevent an estimated 34,000 peanut allergies each year among WIC recipients alone. If peanut protein is not included in the WIC food packages, peanut allergies could disproportionately affect food insecure families and health inequity will increase.”
Peanut groups calculate the cost of feeding an infant the amount of peanut butter it needs from six through 11 months to prevent allergies to be $4.88 while the estimated annual cost of managing a peanut allergy for a child is $4,184.
Visit www.earlyintroductionforall.org to learn more about the issue and to submit comments encouraging the USDA to include peanut butter to Food Package II for infants ages six through 11 months.
U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, a member of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee and Washington lobbyist Bob Redding discussed efforts being made to pass a new farm bill before the current one expires Sept. 30.
“It’s probably one of the toughest bills to get passed, so you need to work closely with your associations, and we need to know what you need sooner rather than later,” Scott said. “Over half of the House members have never voted on a farm bill and about one-third of the Senate hasn’t.”
Redding predicted that the new farm bill would result in minor changes to existing programs.
“These farm bills are evolutionary with minor changes or revolutionary with major changes,” Redding said. “This year is likely to be an evolutionary year, which is what you want.”
Georgia’s new Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper thanked his predecessor Gary Black for his service and for leaving Georgia’s Department of Agriculture in good standing.
“The transition we worked on together went very smoothly. We’re working hard to make certain your department of agriculture is one you can continue to be proud of,” Harper said. “You’ll see a few new faces but most of Commissioner Black’s staff we’re keeping and I told them to keep working hard to promote Georgia Grown products, including peanuts.”