“There are a lot of factors influencing the price of peanuts, but there is no over-coming the fact that we simply grew too many peanuts last year and our growers will probably pay for that production success with lower prices this year,” Cotton says.

“I feel confident there will be peanut contracts this year. However, these are likely to be for lower prices and restricted to lower tons than we’ve seen in recent years,” he adds.

South Carolina growers are more challenged by price than growers in neighboring peanut growing states.

For starters all the peanuts grown in South Carolina must be sold to shellers in Georgia, North Carolina or Virginia. The lack of shellers in the state remains a sore point for growers, but is one they can navigate, if supply and demand are in order and that’s not likely to be the case in 2013.

Recent peanut buys by the Chinese have raised optimism among peanut growers. In South Carolina optimism was high, evidenced by a huge grower turnout for the recent annual state Peanut Board meeting, held for the first time in Santee, S.C.

Speaking at the meeting, South Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers commended the group for moving to a larger facility to accommodate an ever-increasing number of peanut growers in the state.

Weathers, who grows peanuts in partnership with his brother Landy and nephew Landrum Weathers, quipped, “I hope this place (Santee Convention Center) is big enough.”

Much of the South Carolina peanut crop is grown without the benefit of irrigation, which limits cropping options and helps to explain the dramatic growth in acreage over the past decade or so.

Typically, drops in peanut acreage in the Upper Southeast, including South Carolina, would mean more cotton acreage, but that’s not such a good option this year.

Switching from cotton-peanuts and corn to corn-wheat and soybeans simply isn’t an option for most South Carolina peanut growers.

Like peanuts, cotton acreage is projected to drop significantly in 2013. The recent 30th annual National Cotton Council planting intentions survey projects cotton acreage to fall in the Southeast by 18.5 percent from 2012 totals.

Growers listed corn, soybeans and ‘other crops’ as likely replacements for lost cotton acres.

Nationwide cotton acreage is expected to decline nearly 27 percent from 2012 totals.

Without irrigation on lighter, sandy soils that dominate the South Carolina peanut growing belt, corn is always a high risk crop. With corn prices down from historic high prices, the risk gets even bigger.

With irrigation, two ton per acre peanuts may still be better than 150 bushel per acre corn, if corn prices stay in the $5 per bushel range.