Uncertainty over the farm bill, extreme drought, rapidly escalating production costs — taken collectively — don’t constitute the ideal environment for farming profitably. But even in the face of these adversities, winners of the 2008 Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards beat the odds and produced crops that were both efficient and high yielding.

Each of this year’s winning growers represents one of the three major U.S. peanut production regions — the Southwest Region, the Upper Southeast Region and the Lower Southeast Region. Farm Press established the awards program in cooperation with the Southern Peanut Growers Conference and the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation.

“When you consider the hardships faced by these growers, it makes their accomplishments even more impressive,” says Greg Frey, publisher of Farm Press Publications. “Even in a challenging production year, they were able to balance production costs with excellent yields and quality. This is what has earned them the distinction of being named Peanut Profitability Award winners.”

The 2008 honorees maintained high yields and grades, controlled costs, and maximized profits in their operations, says Frey. “All of these factors combined make for a successful peanut farming operation — you can’t have one without the others and stay in business for very long,” he says.

Recognizing deserving growers, says Frey, is only one part of the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Program. “Education is an equally important component of this program, and Farm Press accomplishes this by publishing numerous articles throughout the year focusing on production efficiency in peanuts. Growers also will benefit from reading about the production practices of our award winners,” he says.

The winning growers will be honored during the eighth annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference at the Edgewater Beach Resort in Panama City, Fla., July 13-15.

This year’s winners include:

Southwest Region — Otis Johnson, Seminole, Texas.

Lower Southeast Region — Mike Nugent, Willacoochee, Ga.

Upper Southeast Region — William McElveen, Bishopville, S.C.

Entries in the awards program are evaluated by Marshall Lamb, research leader of the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga. Lamb, who serves as advisor to the program, designed the nomination form that is used by growers in determining production efficiency.

Lamb stresses there’s no one set formula for maintaining profitability in peanut production. “It’s always interesting to see how our winning growers approach things differently, but with the same result — maintaining profitability and efficiency in their peanut operations,” he says.

Rotation and timeliness are always generally common themes among the winners, he says, but they accomplish these good practices in different ways. “For example, one of our growers this year has a set rotation sequence for his peanut crop while another grew cotton for 14 years before deciding to grow peanuts again. It’s the same principle, but they approached it in different ways,” says Lamb.

All of this year’s growers — as in years past — are doing everything on a timely basis, says Lamb. If they irrigate, they do it on a schedule that doesn’t allow for plant stress, and when they spray fungicides, they follow a program that puts them ahead of disease pressure, he says.

This year’s Peanut Profitability honorees also did not hold back on crop inputs, says Lamb, doing whatever is necessary to make good quality peanuts and high yields. “We’ve noticed in our evaluations that the growers who put the most into their crops each season usually are the same ones who do the best job of managing their fixed costs, such as equipment and machinery. In other words, they’re simply good managers,” he says.

The Peanut Profitability Awards, explains Lamb, are based solely on production efficiency — honoring those growers who produce the highest yields at the lowest cost per acre. The awards are based on a producer’s entire farm operation, and not just on individual farms or small plots.

Sponsors of this year’s awards include BASF, Bayer CropScience, Golden Peanut Company, John Deere, Sipcam Agro USA, Inc., the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, Syngenta, the Texas Peanut Producers Board, Southeast Farm Press and Southwest Farm Press.

e-mail: phollis@farmpress.com