FRANKLIN, VA. -- Peanut growers in Virginia and North Carolina say they will hold out about 10 percent of their crops in an effort to increase prices to a target of $900 a ton, 150 percent of the federal support price.

The peanut supply has been reduced by early frosts this year, and the Peanut Farmers Association is hoping prices will rise as shellers and manufacturers feel the pinch in supply.

The group approved the pool strategy during a meeting last Monday night. Growers already have rejected offers of $810 and $835 a ton for their product.

"We will negotiate, but we're not going but so far," said Isle of Wight County farmer Richard L. Turner.

Buyers had until 5 p.m. Wednesday to make their offers for the about 10 million pounds of peanuts harvested last month.

Association members agreed to reduce their asking price for peanuts sold for export and not guaranteed the government subsidy from 150 percent to 145 percent of support price, or about $870 per ton.

It was suggested that holding out for higher prices might prompt buyers to turn to Georgia and Alabama runner-type peanuts, but the association is counting on the popularity of the larger Virginia nuts that are used primarily for in-shell roasting and cocktail peanuts.

Some farmers at the meeting said the group might not get the higher price until the beginning of next year, which would be too late for those with debts they must clear this year.

"There's some farmers out there that haven't paid their notes and need that money bad," Turner said. "The key to this thing is for us to stick together."