With many peanut producers averaging record-breaking yields this past year, it all came down to management in determining the winners of the 2013 Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards.

“Our 14th class of winners presented to us the highest level of management as a group we’ve possibly ever seen,” says Marshall Lamb, advisor for the awards program and research leader for the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga.

This year’s honorees included the following: Southwest Region — Murray Phillips, Frio County, Texas; Lower Southeast Region — Tim McMillan, Southern Grace Farms, Enigma, Ga.; and Upper Southeast Region — Jart Hudson, Turkey, N.C.

This year’s awards were presented in Panama City, Fla., as part of the 15th Annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference. Producers from each growing region of the U.S. Peanut Belt were honored for their production efficiency.

“All these individual farmers did a great job of management on their respective farms,” says Lamb. “They are very diverse farms in terms of the crops they grow and in some of the ventures they have that support the farm, and that adds to their overall management capabilities.”

 

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“This awards program has been a real eye-opener for those of us at Farm Press, just to be able to meet top-notch peanut farmers and get a close-up look at their outstanding farming operations,” adds Forrest Laws, director of content for Farm Press.

The Peanut Profitability Awards Programs is not a yield contest for small acreages, says Lamb. “It’s not even a yield contest on the entire farm. Instead, we take a complete view of the farm in terms of yield, both irrigated and non-irrigated, and oftentimes those are treated separately because the cost structure varies between the two,” he says.

This year was a very interesting one in that aspect, says Lamb, because at least in the Southeast, the differential between irrigated and non-irrigated yields was very close because of plentiful rainfall throughout the growing season.

“Cost of production also is considered, and this is where some of the nominees become very frustrated with me because we have a complicated nomination form. We are truly trying to get a very accurate idea of the true cost of production. And we’re not talking just about variable inputs such as seed and fertilizer. We also look at fixed costs, looking at equipment inventory and how that is allocated to the peanut enterprise, and also the depreciation schedules. That’s where it gets very complicated within the program.

“We also bring in the aspect of marketing. We look at the price you receive for peanuts, and we look at grades. Sometimes grades don’t have that big of an influence, but one point in grade is worth roughly three and half dollars per ton to the farmer, and that comes into play.”

So we take a complete overview from an economic standpoint of the entire farming operation. This year’s competition was very close, says Lamb, especially in the lower Southeast, where the determination of a winner actually came down to the management of fixed costs.

“Looking back, it has been about five years since fixed costs were one of the elements that made such a difference. That goes back to good management. Also, the winning farmer had excellent yields, and his irrigated yields were right up there with his non-irrigated yields, and that goes back to the timeliness of the rainfall.”

In addition to recognition, the Peanut Profitability Award also focuses on education, says Lamb. “One of the most important aspects of this program is the education component, and Farm Press has done a great job of educating our producers through their publications. This group of winners this year certainly proves that point very well.”