The Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards Program is honoring its sixth class of winning growers this year.

When Farm Press announced the establishment of this awards program back in 1999, there were more than a few skeptics who wondered how successful a “cost efficiency” peanut awards program could be. Remember that this was during the time of the government’s peanut quota program, and the most popular method of determining success in peanut production was by who had the highest yields.

But times have changed. Some would argue the change has been for the better, and some would say for the worse. Those growers who have thrived under the confines of the new program are those who have spent less time arguing a moot point and more time adapting to the changes.

Farm Press is grateful to those who believed in the concept of Peanut Profitability from the beginning, most notably the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, Marshall Lamb and the National Peanut Research Laboratory, and our fine group of sponsors, who make the program possible.

When Farm Press first presented Lamb with the idea of an awards program based strictly on production efficiency, his response was “it’s about time.” And he carried the concept even further, helping to design a program that awards cost efficiency based on a producer’s entire farm operation and not on individual farms or small plots.

The efficiency concept especially came into vogue when the government’s support program for peanuts was overhauled, resulting in significant changes in how growers produce, market and sell their crops. Going from a government quota program to more of a market-oriented approach was a historical, monumental, and sometimes painful change for peanut producers.

The aim of the Peanut Profitability Award has evolved in recent years to recognize those growers who have shown adaptability in the face of such a change, and who have continued to produce profitable peanut crops. Each class of winning growers, including the ones we’re recognizing this year, continue to impress with innovative ways of improving bottom-line profits.

Lamb’s Peanut Profitability nomination form is rather extensive, and growers might be forgiven if they expect some sort of award just for completing the process. But there’s a good reason for this, he says.

“While achieving consistently high yields and grades is important in peanut production, it’s only part of the equation. The elements of production costs and price are equally important factors. Our nomination form is extensive because it considers both fixed and variable costs. We’re looking at per-unit costs, and how effectively farmers manage their cost structures,” he says.

The great respect Lamb enjoys in the farming community has been invaluable in lending credibility to the Peanut Profitability Program. Part of this stems from the fact that in addition to doing an outstanding job as research leader for the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga., Lamb also is actively involved in a farming operation of his own. In other words, he walks in the shoes of farmers each and every day, and that commands a special type of respect.

The Peanut Profitability Advisory Board also has been instrumental in helping to establish and grow the program during the past six years. The board is comprised of Extension peanut specialists, county agents, economists and commodity group officials from the major peanut-producing states. Members of the board help to distribute nomination forms within their respective states and educate potential nominees about the program.

This year promises to be a unique one in U.S. peanut production, as more peanuts will be planted in “non-traditional” areas than ever before. We encourage these new growers to prove themselves worthy by filling out Lamb’s nomination form at the end of the 2005 growing season so that you can be considered for the 2006 Peanut Profitability Award.

Growers are recognized from each of the three U.S. peanut-producing regions. You can submit your nomination form directly to the National Peanut Research Laboratory, or you may submit it to your county Extension agent, peanut specialist, economist or Farm Press editor.

Growers can access the nomination form via the Internet at southeastfarmpress.com and southwestfarmpress.com. A micro-site on each of the Farm Press Web sites also offers an overview of the program, articles on peanut profitability and production practices from past winners. The program also can be linked from various commodity group Web sites. To receive a hard copy of the form, call Farm Press headquarters at 1-662-624-8503 or contact any member of the Advisory Board.

e-mail: phollis@primediabusiness.com