You could best characterize 2010 as a year of wide variations for U.S. peanut producers, says Marshall Lamb, research director for the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga., and advisor for the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards.

“This year, above any other, we’ve seen the widest range in peanut yields, and this includes the entire country, from Texas to Florida, up to the Carolinas and Virginia,” says Lamb.

Some areas, like southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia, had extensive drought and record-high temperatures, and growers in those areas had a total loss situation in some of their fields, he says. But in some areas, where the showers were timely, non-irrigated peanut fields did fairly well. It just depends on where you were located, says Lamb.

In inconsistent years such as the one growers experienced in 2010, improved peanut varieties continue to show their worth, he adds.

“Since we’ve had a pretty good couple of years from the standpoint of weather, the big question was whether or not these new varieties could withstand adverse conditions, and they certainly did. But like former University of Georgia Peanut Agronomist John Baldwin always said, ‘If it don’t rain, it don’t matter,’ and many growers can attest to that this year,” says Lamb.

The quality of the 2010 crop is definitely off from previous years, says Lamb. “We’re seeing a lot of Seg. 2’s and Seg. 3’s, and a lot of aflatoxin, and this is requiring that some of the peanuts be re-milled. This, or course, will affect the bottom line of growers, as will the fact that for many, this has been a high-input crop, requiring a lot of irrigation,” he says.

Intense competition for acreage

Looking ahead to the 2011 crop Lamb sees intense competition for crop acreage, especially considering the current price of cotton, corn and soybeans. “Right now, we have an excess supply of farmer stock peanuts, but with the quality problems experienced this year, we don’t know how that’ll translate into edible supply for products such as peanuts. I’m not sure at this point we’ll have an over-supply of edible peanuts. The fact that peanuts are a food ingredient makes it more difficult to judge strictly on supply and demand numbers at this point in the year.”

Based on what he has seen from this past year, Lamb says the winning nominees for the 2011 Peanut Profitability Award definitely will come from irrigated production. “I would expect the nominees to be irrigated producers who made exceptionally high yields, yields that would set them apart from others,” he says.

Lamb, who has been advisor for the awards program since its inception, says it’s a great honor for growers to be nominated for and then to win the Peanut Profitability Award. “One of the components of the Peanut Profitability Program is to educate growers, and I see this as an ideal year for doing that. Our winners should be able to help other growers by telling them how they survived and prospered in some of the most adverse weather conditions we’ve seen in recent memory.”

Peanut Profitability has set a standard of excellence during the past 11 years, and it has never been an easy honor to earn, but another fine group of nominees is expected for 2011,” says Lamb.

The Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards are based on production efficiency, honoring those growers who produce the highest yields at the lowest cost per acre. Awards are presented to growers from the Lower Southeast, including Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi; the Upper Southeast, including Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina; and the Southwest, including Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

The awards program has honored 11 classes of winners from throughout the U.S. Peanut Belt. Since the program’s beginning in 2000, the Peanut Profitability Awards have honored 33 deserving growers. The Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards Program began with the first-ever Southern Peanut Growers Conference in conjunction with the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation.

Winners of the 2011 awards will receive an expenses-paid trip for two to the Southern Peanut Growers Conference, set for July of 2011 in Panama City, Fla. They also will receive limited-edition signed and numbered prints from noted Southern watercolor artist Jack DeLoney.

In addition, the winners are featured in special Peanut Profitability issues of Southeast Farm Press, Southwest Farm Press and Delta Farm Press.

Lamb, who was instrumental in creating the criteria for the awards program, designed the nomination form used by growers in determining production efficiency.

“While achieving consistently high yields and grades is important, it’s only part of the equation to maximizing profits. The elements of production cost and price are equally important factors,” says Lamb.

The grower nomination form for the Peanut Profitability Award is very extensive, notes Lamb, and considers both fixed and variable costs.

“We’ve had nominees in this program with higher yields than most, but they did not correctly manage their cost structure. We’re looking at per-unit costs, and how effectively farmers manage their cost structures,” he says.

Based on entire acreage

The awards program, he says, is based on a producer’s entire peanut operation. “We’re not talking about small plots in select fields. Rather, we look at the overall management of these growers. This includes yields, costs and marketing management for the entire farm, and most of our winners come from sizable farms,” says Lamb.

Assisting with the awards program is an Advisory Board comprised of Extension peanut specialists, county agents, economists and commodity group officials from the major peanut-producing states. They help to distribute nomination forms within their respective states and educate potential nominees about the program.

Farm Press editors, working with Lamb, select the regional winners from the pool of state nominees. Members of the Advisory Board, along with Lamb, are charged with periodically reviewing the awards program to insure consistency and accuracy.

Data entered on a farmer’s nomination form, notes Lamb, should be based on an entire farm operation and not on individual farms or small plots. Actual per-unit costs and returns information will remain confidential to Lamb and his staff.

Growers may submit their nomination form directly to the National Peanut Research Laboratory, or they may submit it to their county Extension agent, peanut specialist or economist. The deadline for all nominations is April 15, 2011.

Growers can access the nomination form via the Internet at southeastfarmpress.com, southwestfarmpress.com, and deltafarmpress.com. In addition, it can be linked from various commodity group websites. To receive a hard copy of the form, call Farm Press headquarters at (662) 624-8503.

phollis@farmpress.com