White says a key to keeping peanuts profitable is a strict rotation program. Typically, he plants peanuts, corn and cotton, then goes back to peanuts. “That’s been consistent for a long time,” he says. “This year, I’m looking at peanuts, cotton and cotton. I don’t have any corn — we just don’t have enough underground moisture for corn this year, but I want to get back to it; any crop that follows corn usually does well.”

The Whites say peanuts have been the most consistent crop they grow for profit. “Planting is a little more difficult,” he says. “And harvest is slow. We have to remember that a peanut plant is a vegetable, and we have to be timely with it.”

Peanut and cotton harvest often overlap, but he says the focus is always to get peanuts in first. “We always hope to be through with peanuts before we start harvesting cotton, but we almost always have some overlap. We’ve started getting someone to come in and pick our irrigated cotton and then we’ll strip our dryland crop. We want to be through by Christmas.” Pushing harvest into the next year, he says, disrupts crop timing.

“Our peanuts always take precedence,” Gayle says.

“We started growing peanuts in 1987,” White says. “Since then, we’ve only missed one crop — in 2,000, I think. But we had a disaster program and good insurance.”

He says 2011 was the worst year he’s seen. “We had lower yields, but a good price helped out. We had the potential to make a big difference last year before the drought hit.”

Production expenses have gone up significantly in the last two years, he says. “The electric bill, for irrigation, has really gotten out of hand.”

“And we’re pretty efficient with our farm operation,” adds Gayle. “Joe D. and one employee do most of the work. Our son, Austin (a junior at Oklahoma State University), helps in the summer. He hopes to come back to the farm when he graduates.”

In addition to Whitney and Austin, they have another daughter, Jessica Lewis. She and her husband, Justin, live in Oklahoma City where he works with a commodity brokerage company.

Joe D. and Gayle hope 2012 offers an opportunity for more typical yields. They are starting off better, with spring rains ranging from 6 inches in some places to 10 inches or more in others. They have a good contract locked in for seed peanuts, and “we planted the best quality peanut seed I’ve ever seen,” White says.

They are both active in farm organizations. Joe D. is chairman of the Oklahoma Peanut Commission and serves with the Tillman County Farm Bureau, the Oklahoma Pesticide Advisory Board and is a delegate to the National Cotton Council. Gayle serves on the National Peanut Board.

“We believe we have to be involved,” White says. “If we don’t speak up for ourselves, who will?”

rsmith@farmpress.com