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JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

So the price of peanut butter may not be peanuts very much longer. It's going up. A record drought plus high prices for other crops are part of the reason. Josephine Bennett from Georgia Public Broadcasting has the story.

SAMUEL BARBER: (Unintelligible)

JOSEPHINE BENNETT, BYLINE: It's lunchtime at the Barber home in Macon, Georgia. Three-year-old Samuel has just gotten up from his nap and he's hungry.

CAROL BARBER: Do you want to come up here and help me make the sandwich?

BARBER: Uh-huh.

BARBER: Do you like the crunchy or the creamy?

BARBER: The creamy.

BENNETT: Carol Barber says Samuel eats peanut butter for lunch almost every day. And he's not the only one. She has three other little boys. She says it's been one of her go-to foods during this economic downturn.

BARBER: We're always looking for things on sale. We are usually looking for non-name brand things. We try to find the biggest bang for our buck, especially in terms of feeding a family of six.

BENNETT: But that's getting harder to do. And to find out why, you don't need to look any further than Benny Johnston's farm 100 miles away in Ocilla.

(SOUNDBITE OF COMBINE)

BENNETT: A peanut combine lumbers over the neat rows, picking and separating the pods from the vine. Mounds of peanuts are dug up and dry in the sun. The good peanuts travel up a conveyor and into a bin. Benny Johnston is 73 and has been farming since he was 16.

How was this year different than years past?

BENNY JOHNSTON: Well it's been a trying year. We had so much hardship starting off with no moisture and all we had to contend with, and then the excessive heat we think hurt us a lot.

BENNETT: But Johnston considers himself lucky. This year's long, hot drought pummeled farmers. But he has an irrigation system. University of Georgia peanut agronomist John Beasley says without irrigation, many farmers would have no crop at all.

JOHN BEASLEY: Unfortunately, I have walked some fields in this state this year that are going to end up with zero yield.

BENNETT: And this is a problem for consumers because almost three-quarters of the Georgia harvest is used to make peanut butter. The cost of peanuts has already doubled. To add to the problem, Don Koehler with the Georgia Peanut Commission says farmers planted more cotton and corn this season.

Some farmers still hope for the best. Armond Morris stands in his empty field as a tractor pulls bins of peanuts to a nearby shelling facility.

ARMOND MORRIS: So far as peanut butter on the shelves, candy bars, peanut products on the shelves, but it's going to be tight.

BENNETT: And tight for consumers too. Parent Carol Barber says if peanut butter prices get much higher, she may cut back and buy a lot less of one of her family's favorite foods.

For NPR News, I'm Josephine Bennett in Macon, Georgia.

LYDEN: This is NPR News.

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