South Carolina peanut growers shattered state acreage and total production records last year, but over-supply and expected low prices have many wondering how many acres to plant and more importantly, finding the best combination of acres and production to meet market needs.

Last year South Carolina growers harvested 107,000 acres, topping the previous record by 12,000 acres and for the first time in history surpassing peanut acreage in North Carolina.

Though peanuts are a relatively new crop in the state, the previous acreage record of 95,000 was set in 1943, when the majority of the crop was used to produce oil for the war effort and to feed hogs.

How many acres of peanuts will be planted in South Carolina this year is difficult, at best, to determine. Clearly, it won’t be 107,000 and it most likely won’t be close to 100,000 acres, and the best guess seems to be between 70,000 and 75,000 acres.

Whether a 30-35 percent reduction in acreage will be enough to prevent too many peanuts from going into the loan program, and ultimately selling for less than $400 per ton, is a big question growers should ask themselves before they decide how many peanuts to plant this year, says Virginia Peanut Marketing Specialist Dell Cotton.

Last year in March the USDA estimated the U.S. peanut crop to be 1.42 million acres. By August they upped the acreage to 1.49 million and estimated total production at 2.65 million tons. The final tally for the 2012 crop is 1.61 million acres and 3.38 million tons, Cotton says.

By comparison, the 10-year average for peanut production, prior to the 2012 crop, was only 2.2-2.5 million tons.

Every state in the Southeast planted higher acreage than the 10-year average, with South Carolina topping 100,000 for the first time and Florida topping 200,000 acres for the first time.

Not only did every state plant more peanuts, every state in the South also harvested more peanuts per acre than in any year in history — and by a wide margin, the Virginia marketing specialist says.

The Southeast belt and the Virginia-Carolina peanut producing belts averaged nearly 4,200 pounds per acre, which in some states topped previous yield per acre averages by nearly 1,000 pounds per acre.

The 2012 crop produced 1,555,000 more tons of peanuts than the 2011 crop.