When Farm Press made the decision about three years ago to establish the Peanut Profitability Award, it was met with a fair amount of skepticism by some in the industry. After all, this was a crop with a guaranteed support price, and for many years the primary focus in peanut production was on achieving high yields — cost efficiency was a secondary consideration.

But things began to change after the passage of the 1996 farm bill. Peanut producers faced a flat, non-changing support price, and the peanut program was re-established on a no-net cost basis, meaning that any costs incurred by the program would be passed on to growers.

It became obvious very quickly that production efficiency in peanuts not only was a trait to be admired and recognized, but it also would be the key to survival for most growers.

The original concept of the Peanut Profitability Award still holds true today — to recognize and reward those producers who have found innovative methods of improving bottom-line profits. The awards are based on production efficiency and honor those growers who produce the highest yields at the lowest cost per acre. And, unlike other award programs, Peanut Profitability is based on a producer's entire farm operation, not just on individual farms or small plots.

A first step in lending credibility to the program was to find an advisor who could devise a fair and credible method of evaluating nominees and determining the final winners. The top person on our list for undertaking this task — Marshall Lamb of the USDA National Peanut Research Laboratory — readily accepted the challenge.

Lamb is widely respected throughout the Peanut Belt for his extensive research efforts in improving efficiency and quality in peanut production. Most growers also are familiar with his role in developing the Irrigator Pro computer system for scheduling irrigation and with his common-sense approach to marketing and management issues.

Lamb is one of those rare individuals who “talks the talk and walks the walk.” You see, in addition to being an agricultural economist, he also is a farmer. Whenever Lamb speaks about improving production efficiency or devising new farm management strategies, you can be sure he's not just talking about some vague and untested economic theory or concept. Although he has all of the requisite training and degrees, he's not strictly a product of the academic or research communities. He's a southwest Georgia farmer, and he views agriculture from the trenches.

Lamb enthusiastically accepted the invitation to become part of a program that he felt was long over-due, and he devised a nomination form that accurately measures a producer's production efficiency in an unbiased manner.

While achieving consistently high yields and grades is important, says Lamb, it is only part of the equation to maximizing profits in peanut production. The elements of production cost and price are equally important factors, he says, and the Peanut Profitability Program recognizes this.

Assisting Lamb is an Advisory Board of Extension peanut specialists, county agents and economists from the major peanut-producing states who help to distribute the nomination forms and assist growers in completing and submitting the forms for consideration.

The success of this awards program depends entirely on the quality of the nominees, and the first two groups of Peanut Profitability winners certainly have not disappointed. They come from different regions, and their production practices are not the same, but they all recognize the importance of production efficiency to the survival of the U.S. peanut industry.

But Peanut Profitability isn't just about the awards. Education is a second major component of the program, and we attempt to accomplish this throughout the year by publishing numerous articles and reports focusing on peanut production efficiency.

So take a close look at this special Peanut Profitability issue of Southeast Farm Press. Read about the winning growers, their production practices and about other issues of relevance to peanut producers, and let us know what you think. If you're a grower, this is your program, and we need your input to make Peanut Profitability a continued success.


e-mail: phollis58@mindspring.com