Winners of the 2002 Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards are the ultimate survivors. In the past year, they've faced severe weather problems, uncertain market conditions and a complete overhaul of their commodity's government program, all the while maintaining superior production efficiency.

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.

“The 2002 Peanut Profitability winners are to be commended for their strength and perseverance in the face of the worst conditions imaginable,” says Mike Gonitzke, publisher of the Farm Press Publications. “These growers are setting the standard for production efficiency by continuing to discover innovative methods of improving bottom-line profits.”

The 2002 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, and these factors become even more important with the advent of the new peanut program.”

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 Peanut Profitability Program also awards a grant to the annual meeting of the American Peanut Research and Education Society.

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 21-23. 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 — Chuck Rowland, Gaines County, Texas.

  • Southeast Region — Jerry Heard Jr. & Jeff Heard, Newton, Ga.

  • Virginia-Carolina Region — Jamie Lee, Courtland, Va.

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 were excellent yield and cost managers — they all had outstanding yields,” says Lamb. “While their cost of production might have been higher than last year's class of winners, their yields were so good that they lowered their cost-per-unit. These growers didn't mind spending money if they could see a return in yields.”

Fixed costs also were higher among this year's winners, says the economist, but high yields helped to compensate for the difference. “If you look at these growers' production records, you'll see that they're consistently high-yield producers, most every year. We're talking about a minimum of 4,800 to 5,000 pounds per acre.

“And we're not talking about small plots here. The Peanut Profitability Program judges a grower's efficiency over his entire farming operation.

It's easy to make a high yield on a small plot, but the challenge comes in duplicating that success over your entire acreage while maintaining cost efficiency,” notes Lamb.

Rotation is another common trait among this year's winners, he adds. “Not one of these growers had a crop rotation of fewer than three years. Crop rotation of one of the basic but primary components of efficient peanut production, and these growers recognize this,” he says.

Each of the 2002 Peanut Profitability Award winners also boasted a high-quality crop, says Lamb. “All of these were very high-grading peanut crops, and that's another sign of good management. Each of these producers had very low LSK's. Good management must extend throughout the growing season to the point of adjusting the combine correctly. These growers exemplified that ideal.”

The goal of the Peanut Profitability Awards — recognizing production efficiency over an entire peanut farming operation — becomes even more important as growers learn to adjust to the realities of a new government program, says Lamb.

“Under the new peanut program, growers must become more efficient managers.

Cost and revenue are changing under the new marketing loan concept, and growers must adjust their thinking to meet these changes.

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