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Peanut farmers blame PCA for downturn

March 1, 2009 at 4:21 PM   |   Comments

FORT WORTH, Texas, March 1 (UPI) -- Texas peanut farmers say they are upset with Peanut Corporation of America, which they blame for a drop in demand for their crops this year.

U.S. officials say PCA is at the center of a salmonella outbreak that has sickened nearly 700 people and killed nine -- a scandal at a single plant in Georgia that has all but put a hold on contracts being given to Texas farmers from shellers fearing a continued consumer backlash, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Sunday.

"Growers are pretty upset about how one bad player can impact the whole industry," Nathan Smith, an agricultural economist with the University of Georgia extension service in Tilton, Ga., told the newspaper. "Consumption is impacted, no doubt, and that has the industry in a holding pattern. And the cause of all this is pretty unprecedented."

Anger against PCA and its chief executive, Stewart Parnell, is visceral in Texas, observers say.

"I know what he's done was very uncalled for," Jimbob Grissom, president of the Western Peanut Growers Association, told the Star-Telegram. "Parnell hurt a whole lot of people, and it has absolutely killed the peanut industry right now. People are scared."

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