There's been much consternation and hand-wringing as of late over the state of federally administered grower check-off funds, with the bulk of the concern originating from the current court challenge involving the beef industry.
And certainly growers shouldn't be bashful about holding such funds and their administrators fully accountable for the money they collect. In today's farming economy, even a few cents per pound, ton, bale or bushel could make a huge difference in the bottom line.
The problem with some check-off funds is that most of the dollars earmarked for research are spread so far and wide among so many projects that growers rarely see timely, tangible results from their hard-earned contributions.
A notable exception has been the “new kid on the block” in terms of national grower check-offs — the National Peanut Board for Promotion and Research. Approved by peanut producers back in 1999, the board has worked quickly to address the problems facing growers, particularly those in the Southeast.
Producer board members who were elected by their fellow growers wasted little time in identifying the most pressing research needs. Then, rather than throwing money at every research proposal submitted, the board established a process whereby projects are carefully and deliberately reviewed, with an eye towards putting money back into the pockets of farmers.
The National Peanut Board (NPB) allocated nearly $2 million this year to fund research projects in nine states aimed at improving peanut quality.
Some of these projects target producers in Alabama, Florida and Georgia, where the majority of U.S. peanuts are grown. Here's a quick look at some of this research:
Water — With the Southeast in the midst of a multi-year drought, and an ever-increasing number of government water regulations, farmers need to know how to make the most of a dwindling resource. One NPB-funded study, Efficient Irrigation for Peanut and Peanut-Based Rotations, looks at low and moderate technology devices for shutting off end guns or eliminating irrigation on non-crop portions of fields.
Another NPB-funded study, Increasing the Efficiency of Pivot Irrigation Systems, gathers the economic and infrastructure information needed for managing, determining value and improving ease of use while looking for ways to produce, market and service pivot irrigation systems. A third water-related study will give peanut producers useful information for deciding if they should harvest before aflatoxin kicks in or gamble on more water.
Diseases and Pests — Southeast growers undoubtedly spend more money controlling diseases and pests than producers in other regions. Research in this area is focusing on genetic engineering and the development of disease-resistant cultivars. One such study, Screening for Genes Involved in Resistance to Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus in Cultivated Peanuts, uses an elaborate technique that scientists hope will isolate the gene that makes the C-99R variety resistant to TSWV, giving a genetic advantage to growers that hopefully will translate into higher yields.
Another disease-related project is looking at the genetic profile of cylindrocladium black rot in an attempt to prevent the further spread of this disease in the Southeast. NPB-funded studies also are looking at developing peanut varieties that will use water more efficiently and be resistant to peanut root-knot nematodes. Research also is looking at how to use currently available fungicides more efficiently through advisory programs.
Selling More Peanuts — Finding new ways to develop, improve and sell food products is essential to the future of U.S. peanut production. To this end, the National Peanut Board is funding research that looks at how varieties can be produced that will meet the needs of everyone in the peanut producing process.
Other related projects are taking a look at developing value-added peanut products, predicting changes in world trade affecting peanuts and developing a computer program that allows Southeastern growers to compare their production costs with other regions of the United States and the world.
If you're a peanut producer, this is your money. Make it a point to know how it's being spent.