What is in this article?:
- New Mexico growers cheer peanut plant returning to operation
- Registration reinstated
- Exposed peanuts
- Sunland Inc., the nation's largest organic peanut butter processor, resumed operations at its Portales, N.M., plant May 21.
- Company Vice President Katalin Coburn said plant officials are excited to be back after a salmonella outbreak linked to Sunland products last fall caused the plant to be shuttered for months.
- Texas grower Brent Nelson said the closing of the plant caught all parties by surprise.
In late December, Sunland announced that the food facility registration for its Portales, N. M., location had been reinstated. That followed an agreement reached between federal inspectors and plant officials that called for an independent, third party inspection of the facility to determine if the problems discovered from previous inspections had been corrected.
In January, Sunland put the majority of employees laid off following the recall last year back to work and soon thereafter began making payment arrangements with New Mexico and Texas peanut growers who were owed money for peanuts sold to the company but not yet processed when FDA shuttered the plant.
Texas grower Brent Nelson said the company had been good to growers by making partial payments initially and plans for follow up payments "as possible." He said the closing of the plant caught all parties by surprise and created many hardships for not only the plant but for growers as well.
“Our peanut harvest last year was one of the best we have had, and not just for me but for most peanut farmers across the region. We depend on the Portales plant and don’t have a lot of options for selling our crop outside of Sunland,” he said earlier this year.
Sunland limits its peanut purchases to high grade Valencia varieties and has long maintained a working relationship with regional growers, some of which were quick to defend the company after FDA inspections last year.
Nelson says there was talk among growers that accuses the FDA of taking the action “to set an example” because of a rash of salmonella outbreaks in recent years all across the country and said he believes the problem may not have been as widespread as early reports indicated.