The winners of the 2001 Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards have maintained production efficiency in what might be considered some of the worst of times for U.S. peanuts producers, with declining demand, increasing pressure from imports and an uncertain future for the commodity's government program.

Each of the winners represents one of the three major U.S. peanut production regions — the Southwest Region, the Southeast Region and the Virginia-Carolina Region. The awards program, established by Farm Press in cooperation with the Southern Peanut Growers Conference, is sponsored this year by BASF Corporation.

“Our 2001 Peanut Profitability winners represent the very best in production agriculture,” says Mike Gonitzke, publisher of the Farm Press Publications. “In the face of severe weather problems and uncertain markets, they have persevered and discovered innovative methods of improving bottom-line profits.”

The 2001 honorees, says Gonitzke, are achieving high yields and grades while at the same time maximizing profits. “You can't have one without the other and remain in peanut production for very long. These growers recognize that production costs and price are as important as high yields in the profit equation.”

Recognizing deserving growers, says Gonitzke, is only one part of the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Program. “Education is an equally important component of this program, and Farm Press accomplishes this by publishing numerous articles throughout the year focusing on production efficiency in peanuts. Growers also will benefit from reading about the production practices of our award winners,” he says.

The winning growers will be honored at an awards breakfast during the third annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference at the Edgewater Beach Resort in Panama City, Fla., July 22-24. Conference participants will be given an opportunity to hear the award winners talk about some of their keys to efficient peanut production.

This year's winners include:

  • Southwest Region — Neil Reimer, Seminole, Texas

  • Southeast Region — Harris Devane, Cuthbert, Ga.

  • Virginia-Carolina Region — Wayland & Hunter W. Spruill, Windsor, N.C.

Entries in the awards program are evaluated by Marshall Lamb, economist with the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga., and a research fellow with Auburn University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Lamb, who serves as advisor to the program, designed the nomination form that is used by growers in determining production efficiency.

“This year's Peanut Profitability winners didn't miss a beat — from land preparation through harvesting, they did everything that's necessary to produce a successful crop,” says Lamb. “As a result, the lowest irrigated yield among the honorees was 4,100 pounds per acre. They didn't skimp on inputs, but they're still very efficient managers.”

Irrigation, says the economist, was a major factor in the success of all three growers. “Irrigation, over the long-run, pays for itself, especially in the Southeast. The Southeast Region winner — Harris Devane — irrigated long and hard to make a good crop. Our research has shown significant gains in yield and grade when producers irrigate their peanuts,” notes Lamb.

The 2001 winners also were efficient managers of their fixed costs, he adds. “We also saw this in our 2000 award winners. Each of these growers kept their equipment inventory very much in control. If you compare the per-acre equipment costs for these farmers, you'll see that they are well below average. They're lower than our data sets here at the National Peanut Lab, and they're lower than what the Extension Service recommends. These producers do an excellent job of managing their equipment costs.”

Another common trait among this year's winners, says Lamb, is their commitment to crop rotation. “Not one of these growers had a rotation of fewer than three years, and the longest rotation was five years. Crop rotation is one of the basic components of efficient production, and these growers know that,” says Lamb.

Each of these growers, says Lamb, has one outstanding trait or production practice that stands out above all others:

  • “Harris Devane emphasizes the importance of rotation. If he can't do a three-year rotation, he'll plant three crops, such as double-cropping cotton behind wheat and then planting peanuts the next year.”

  • “Wayland Spruill schedules irrigation using the Irrigator Pro computer management system. He has increased his yields and become more efficient in watering his peanuts.”

  • “Neil Reimer made outstanding yields with his 2000 crop, averaging 6,105 pounds per acre over 360 acres. He just had a great year, making 10 tons of quota.”

The goal of the Peanut Profitability Awards — recognizing production efficiency over an entire peanut farming operation — is becoming increasingly important, says Lamb.

“This depressed farm economy is forcing growers to become better managers. Regardless of what happens with the future of the government peanut program, growers will have to improve their production efficiency. While the future is uncertain, it's certain that input costs will continue to increase.

“And growers are, for the most part, becoming more efficient managers. They're examining every input before they make a decision to change, and they're doing everything possible to stretch their bottom line.”

For more information on this year's winners and their production practices, see the articles in this issue of Southeast Farm Press and Southwest Farm Press.