Market demands forced many U.S. peanut producers to cut back on their acreage in 2006, and many who continued growing peanuts found themselves in a cost/price squeeze, with a surplus crop from prior years, rising fuel costs and dry weather conditions.

But even in the face of such adverse conditions, winners of the 2007 Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards still managed to balance high yields with cost efficiency, earning them this well-deserved recognition.

Each of the winners represents one of the three major U.S. peanut production regions — the Southwest Region, the Upper Southeast Region and the Lower Southeast Region. Farm Press established the awards program in cooperation with the Southern Peanut Growers Conference and the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation.

“Soaring fuel costs took a bite out of the profits of peanut producers in 2006,” says Greg Frey, publisher of the Farm Press Publications. “Still, our Peanut Profitability winners were able to balance production costs with excellent yields, even in a challenging production year.”

Maintaining high yields and grades, controlling costs, and maximizing profits are all part of the equation for the 2007 honorees, says Frey. “You can’t have any one of these factors without the others and survive in peanut production for very long,” he says.

Recognizing deserving growers, says Frey, 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 during the eighth annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference at the Edgewater Beach Resort in Panama City, Fla., July 15-17.

This year’s winners include:

Lower Southeast Region — Bob McLendon, Leary, Ga.

Upper Southeast Region — Todd Lewis, Gatesville, N.C.

Southwest Region — Clint White, White City, Texas.

Entries in the awards program are evaluated by Marshall Lamb, research leader of the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga. Lamb, who serves as advisor to the program, designed the nomination form that is used by growers in determining production efficiency.

Rotation and timeliness are common themes among this year’s Peanut Profitability winners, says lamb. Each of the growers utilized good rotation practices which help to reduce peanut disease pressure while increasing yields.

“In the history of this awards program, rotation has been a recurring theme among our winning growers,” says Lamb. “Two of our honorees for 2006 are on a full three-year rotation while the third rotates with cotton and wheat, getting in three crops within a 13-month time period.”

One grower blames a drop in yield on changing from a three to a four-year rotation while another agrees that a four-year rotation would be ideal for optimum peanut yields, so these growers are very conscientious about the importance of the practice, he says.

Each of this year’s winning growers also placed a high priority on timeliness, says Lamb. “Timeliness is critical in producing peanuts, and these growers realize this. They also realize that having good labor is essential in doing everything on time,” he says.

The 2007 Peanut Profitability winners also are innovators, he says, adopting new technology such as GPS guidance systems and expert irrigation scheduling systems. If a technology can be proven to boost efficiency, yields and profits, these growers are not afraid to adopt it, says Lamb.

This year’s honorees also did not hold back on crop inputs, he says. “They did whatever it took to make good quality peanuts and high yields, using full programs for disease and weed control. Whenever they do cut costs, they do it without sacrificing yields.”

The Peanut Profitability Awards, explains Lamb, are based solely on production efficiency — honoring those growers who produce the highest yields at the lowest cost per acre. The awards are based on a producer’s entire farm operation, and not just on individual farms or small plots.

Sponsors of this year’s awards include EchoMuscle Fungicide, Golden Peanut Company, John Deere Company, Provost/Temik, Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, Syngenta, Texas Peanut Producers Board, U.S. Borax, Southeast Farm Press and Southwest Farm Press.

e-mail: phollis@farmpress.com