What is in this article?:
- Peanut plant puts workers back to work, pays some farmers
- Some FDA charges were 'superficial'
- Sunland plant to resume operations.
- Some claim FDA charges were superficial.
- Farmers are ready to put the uncertainty surrounding the shutdown behind them.
Sunland, Inc., has announced that most of the workers laid off after the company’s Portales, New Mexico, peanut butter mill was shuttered last September following a recall of organic peanut butter products are now back at work.
Suspension of operations at the plant were ordered after the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) reported inspections at the facility indicated products from the plant may have been associated with a salmonella outbreak that caused 41 illnesses in 20 states. The company is the largest organic peanut butter processor in the nation and produces both organic and non-organic products at the Portales facility.
The incident developed at a critical time for Eastern New Mexico and Western Texas Valencia peanut farmers. A healthy and abundant crop of peanuts was being harvested at about the time the plant was closed, leaving many peanut growers in a quandary.
“This all happened at a really bad time for us,” reports Texas peanut grower Brent Nelson of Sudan. “Our peanut harvest 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.”
Nelson is one of many producers who still haven’t been paid for the 2012 crop, though the peanuts have been delivered to Sunland. But he is quick to point out that the plant has made every effort to secure funding to pay at least a portion for nuts delivered to the plant.
“A number of friends who delivered peanuts to the plant have received at least a partial payment and I believe I will also see payment in the days ahead. This whole thing caught everybody by surprise and couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” he added.
Nelson says he has heard talk that accuses the FDA of taking the action “to set an example” and said he believes the problem may not have been as widespread or “as big a deal” as early reports indicate.