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Peanut shutdown a shell shock for town

The peanut monument in Blakely, Ga.

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: Today, a congressional committee is holding hearings on the salmonella outbreak in peanuts. The FDA traced it to a processing plant owned by Peanut Corporation of America. The plant, located in tiny Blakely, Ga., has been shut down and its 50 employees laid off. That's worsened the economic situation of a small farming community already hit hard by the fallout. Marketplace's Dan Grech reports.


Dan Grech: Blakely, Ga. calls itself the Peanut Capital of the World. The town even has a statue of a giant peanut in its central square.

Ric Hall is the mayor of Blakely:

Ric Hall: It's a granite monument that has a peanut on top of it, and it was erected back in the 50's.

At the height of the peanut boom, Blakely had 30,000 residents. That population has now fallen to 6,000, as foreign competition and reduced federal subsidies have hit the local farm economy.

Hall says it will be hard for Blakely to recover from the closing of the Peanut Corp plant.

Hall: Certainly it has devastating effect to those 50 employees. And our biggest concern is hopefully that this doesn't cause further erosion of our population by folks having to move to try to find employment somewhere else.

Hall says he's confident this salmonella scare will pass, and in Blakely at least, peanuts will once again be king.

I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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