One of the best things about the annual Southern Peanut Growers’ Conference — other than being held at the beach — is the opportunity to see folks I’ve known for most of my career.
It’s also an excellent opportunity to meet some new people and to assess crop prospects about midway through the growing season.
Last week I caught up with a bunch of folks I worked with more than 30 years ago, back in the Southeast. Lanier Jordan, a county Extension agent in south Georgia, reminded me of farmer interviews he helped set up for me back in 1980. Lanier is still working to help farmers make decisions to improve productivity.
And Gale Buchanan, former USDA chief scientist and an under secretary of agriculture, as well as dean and director emeritus at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, was an Auburn University weed specialist when I met him in the summer of 1978.
Buchanan, most likely, was one of the first sources I interviewed about peanuts for Farm Press. I met him on a weed control tour the second week of my employment. I worked with him many times afterward. Last week he was gracious enough to tell someone that I had never misquoted him. I’d like to believe he was right, but I wonder.
I ran into Ed and Bonnie White outside Fireflies restaurant — an absolute must if you’re ever in Panama City Beach, Fla. Bonnie recalled a visit I made to their Headland, Ala., farm more than 20 years ago and suggested I’d be welcome to come back sometime. I’d like that.
I check in with Tom Ingram, a Lee County, Ala., peanut and cotton farmer, every year at this meeting. Tom was the first farmer I ever interviewed about switching to no-till cotton production. That was back in 1984, and he still remembers the visit. I touched base with him many times when I worked in Georgia and Alabama. And he’s still growing no-till cotton — no-till peanuts, too.
I was also pleased to host Gayle and Joe D. White, Frederick, Okla., as the Southwest Farm Press Peanut Profitability winners for 2012. We had a nice dinner — at Fireflies. You have to try the she crab soup if you’re ever down that way.
Joe D. did a great job explaining the intricacies of producing peanuts in a drought as part of a grower panel at the awards breakfast the following morning.
The privilege of interviewing and writing about the Peanut Profitability winners is one of the highlights of my year. This one was no exception. I had a fun visit, got some good information about growing peanuts, got to pet a deer and hope that in 20 years or so they wouldn’t mind me coming back for a reunion. I’d like that, too.
Peanut industry experts explained that crop prospects across the Peanut Belt look promising as the season hits the midway point. Most areas could use another good rain or two, but folks say a bumper crop may be in the works.
Marketing activity is at a standstill as buyers watch crop progress and wait to see how many tons of peanuts come rolling in this fall. Expectations are that prices will drop a bit at harvest, but could rebound if the drought in the Midwest and much of the rest of the country persists and continues to push up corn and soybean prices. I hate to see any region suffer from drought but I do hope to see peanut prices stay profitable.
I also look forward to interviewing another worthy Peanut Profitability Award winner. If you grow peanuts, think about. We’ll have a fine time in Panama City Beach.