Mississippi has joined the big leagues of U.S. peanut production and is now considered a major peanut-producing state according to qualifications set forth by USDA and the National Peanut Board.

In recognition of this status, Farm Press has announced that beginning with the 2008 crop year — with awards to be presented in 2009 — Mississippi growers will be eligible for the Peanut Profitability Award. The Peanut Profitability Awards are presented annually to growers in the U.S. production regions who demonstrate efficiency and maintain profitability in their operations. The awards — administered by the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga. — are based on the entire peanut farming operation and not on single plots.

Six years ago, there were less than 4,000 acres of peanuts planted in Mississippi, hardly worth a mention by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. But when the 2002 farm bill did away with the quota system for peanuts, acreage started to climb toward respectability.

“It opened the door for anyone to grow peanuts,” said Mike Howell, area agronomist for the Extension Service who has peanut responsibilities for the state. “We had a lot of new growers coming in because of that.”