Despite these two potential bumps in the road for peanut production in South Carolina, the expectations are high for a continued increase in peanut production in the state over the next few years.

If the South Carolina Peanut Board and the South Carolina Peanut Growers Association are successful in attracting a major peanut shelling operation to the state, the growth potential is even better.

“2010 was a good year for peanuts for us — I’ll take it every year,” says Branchville, S.C., peanut grower Richard Rentz. Rentz, who is chairman of the South Carolina Peanut Board, says peanut growers in the state are trying to influence a sheller or shellers to build a facility in the state.

In neighboring North Carolina, peanut acreage has dwindled over the past decade from 126,000 acres to a low of 66,000 acres in 2009. Combined with Virginia, North Carolina produced well over 200,000 acres of peanuts as late 2000.

While some point the finger at the Palmetto state for dramatic reductions in peanut acreage in North Carolina and Virginia, that’s not a realistic cause for acreage cuts. Low peanut prices, high costs, especially for disease management, and emerging markets in cotton and grain forced many long-time Virginia-Carolina peanut growers away from the crop over the past decade.

Though contract prices for Virginia type peanuts may exceed $600 per ton, it isn’t likely even these high prices will entice many growers back into the volatile peanut market, which seems to go up and down on a regular cycle.

With cotton prices good and grain prices stable, growers in the northern end of the peanut producing belt seem to have better options over the next couple of years. If peanut prices remain stable for consecutive years, more growers are likely to invest in peanuts, bringing acreage back some in North Carolina and Virginia.

For 2011, if South Carolina growers can overcome some minor obstacles, this should be a good year for peanut production.

rroberson@farmpress.com