Creation of the National Peanut Board four years ago did a lot more than generate new money to promote consumption and to fund research projects, although it did accomplish those goals through producer check-off dollars.

“The National Peanut Board also brought some new vision into the industry,” said Marie Fenn, director and president of the board.

Fenn, addressing a recent peanut marketing and production seminar in Lubbock, said bringing the varied facets of the peanut industry, including producers, shellers, manufacturers and others, under one umbrella to identify and solve problems created a dynamic group with innovative ideas about how to bring more profit into the peanut industry.

“All peanut producers are equally involved in the check-off program,” Fenn said. The board concentrates on growth, action, innovation and net results. “Everything we do considers these four elements and we look at both short-term and long-range activities.”

She says early efforts have begun to pay dividends. “We're growing consumer demand,” she said. “And we're working with state and allied peanut organizations to maximize the reach of grower dollars.”

Farmers will see benefits from production research projects, backed by more than $7 million in check-off money. That represents 137 production research projects nationwide. “We have $1.7 million and 59 projects tagged for the Southwest,” Fenn said.

Efforts pay off

Research includes efficient water use, disease management, and variety development.

NPB efforts have already paid off in consumer markets, Fenn said. “Consumption is up for snack peanuts, peanut butter and peanut candy. We see more awareness in the marketplace and can determine that consumers are selecting products based on our messages.”

She said efforts also helped secure $6 million in new government money for export promotion. “Also, we've captured non-grower dollars from manufacturers, retailers, food service and other entities to augment advertising and promotion.”

Fenn said part of the Board's mission is to scan media for credibility and misinformation regarding peanuts.

The board has also helped kick-start research looking for ways to manage peanut allergies. “The NPB helped secure $3.5 million in new funds for allergy research,” said Stanley Fletcher, coordinator of the University of Georgia National Center for Peanut Competitiveness. “We've accelerated research by many months, possibly as much as two to three years,” he said. “A primary goal is to help educate people that peanut allergy problems can be controlled.”

Fletcher said promotions also have helped boost peanut consumption. He noted improved demand for peanut butter and other peanut products. Demand has taken a u-turn since 2000. Fletcher said from 1997 through 2000 peanut consumption in the United States declined 3 percent. From 2001 through 2003, consumption increased by 9.7 percent.

Promote advantage

“The United States is head and shoulders above other countries in producing high quality peanuts,” Fletcher said. “We have to promote that and with the National Peanut Board, we have a fantastic opportunity to do so.”

Fenn said promotion efforts include reliable messages from credible, high profile spokespersons. “Peanuts are a heart healthy, low carbohydrate, nutritious food,” she said.

The net result so far shows “U.S. peanut butter consumption and overall peanut demand is up,” Fenn said.

The Texas Peanut Producers Board and the Texas Cooperative Extension Service sponsored the marketing and production seminar.