Estimates for peanut acreage in South Carolina for 2012 range from a modest increase up to 96,000 acres, which would be a 20 percent jump from 2011.

A high percentage of the total acreage will be planted to Virginia types, which need calcium, most frequently applied as gypsum in the Palmetto state.

Throughout the winter months, rumors circulated that gypsum from Santee-Cooper, one of the state’s largest electric utilities would be in short supply and/or much more expensive than in 2011.

Lonnie Carter, CEO of Santee-Cooper, puts those rumors to rest at a recent statewide meeting of the South Carolina Peanut Board.

Santee-Cooper generates 500,000 to 800,000 tons of gypsum annually. Last year South Carolina farmers bought nearly 70,000 tons from Santee-Cooper. Demand from other industries for gypsum, which is technically synthetic gypsum, dwarfs demand from agriculture.

Carter, who grew up on a farm near Branchville, S.C., says that doesn’t mean farmers aren’t important to the huge energy company. The company CEO, whose brother grows peanuts, says gypsum from Santee-Cooper will be in good supply for 2012 and the price will be one dollar a ton more than last year.

The dollar increase, Carter explains, comes to fund a scientific study by Clemson University. The amount of money his company will receive from gypsum in 2012 will be the same as 2011, and hopefully, the research project will lead to more efficient ways to generate and collect gypsum in the future.

His company uses limestone in the electric generation process. Flue gases are scrubbed from coal-fired stations and the by-product collected is synthetic gypsum.