Winners of the 2005 Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards achieved excellent yields and quality during the 2004 growing season, but they also maintained cost-efficient production systems, distinguishing themselves among their peers and earning the Peanut Profitability seal of approval.

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. Farm Press established the awards program in cooperation with the Southern Peanut Growers Conference and the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation.

“Despite being ravaged by tropical storms in the Southeast, U.S. peanut producers achieved high production levels again in 2004, with many producing near-record yields and excellent quality,” says Greg Frey, publisher of the Farm Press Publications. “What separates our Peanut Profitability winners from the pack is that they recognize that maintaining production costs is as important as high yields in the profit equation.”

The 2005 honorees, says Frey, achieved high yields and grades while at the same time maximizing profits. “You can’t have one without the other and remain in peanut production over the long haul,” 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.

Another part of the education component, presented for the second time this year, is the Peanut Profitability Internship Program. Funds from the program are awarded to a deserving college or university student majoring in agricultural journalism or a related field. This year’s recipient, Molly Mason, is a sophomore at Texas Tech University. The agricultural communications major is working the summer semester with Southwest Farm Press.

The winning growers will be honored during the seventh annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference at the Edgewater Beach Resort in Panama City, Fla., July 17-19.

This year’s winners include:

Southwest Region — Rex Carr, Levelland, Texas.

Southeast Region — Fenn Farms, Clayton, Ala.

Virginia-Carolina Region — Robert L. Umphlett, Jr., Gates, N.C.

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.

One of the common traits among this year’s Peanut Profitability winners, says Lamb, is that they all used good rotation schemes, which reduces disease pressure, increases yields, and ultimately benefits the bottom line.

“It all comes back to good rotation,” says Lamb. “One of our winners this year was three years out of peanuts, while another was two years out of peanuts with a bahiagrass rotation. This is the first time we’ve had a winner who used a bahiagrass and beef cattle rotation with peanuts.”

As in past years, a key to efficiency with this year’s winning growers was detailed management, he adds. “Their management skills translated into extremely good yields over their entire peanut acreage. These growers also showed a willingness to embrace new technology, whether it be a new piece of equipment or a computer program such as IrrigatorPro to increase their irrigation efficiency,” says Lamb.

It’s also interesting to note, he says, that the 2005 honorees didn’t hold back on inputs. “In the past, we’ve had winners who held back on inputs and sacrificed yields, but that’s not the case with this year’s growers. In addition to traditional disease control measures, each of these growers also had a full program for soil-borne diseases,” says Lamb.

Winners of the 2005 Peanut Profitability Awards obviously have adapted well to the revamped peanut program, he says, and they all have done an excellent job marketing their crops.

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.

The goal of achieving efficiency, says Lamb, has become even more paramount with the government’s new peanut program, rising input costs, and a tightening market.

“Under the old peanut program, we would fill our quotas and then sell additional peanuts. Now, our total production is marketed for a flat price. If you can make better yields, you can capture much more from your extra production. That translates into a boost in income for our better growers.”

e-mail; phollis@primediabusiness.com