If the initial planting intentions report is any indication, then U.S. peanut growers are following the advice of industry experts who had recommended an acreage increase this year of 5 to 8 percent.

According to USDA’s first intentions report of 2010, peanut growers intend to plant 1.20 million acres, up 8 percent from last year. An increase in planted area is expected in the Southeast and the Virginia-Carolina regions, while peanut acreage is expected to decrease in the Southwest.

Marshall Lamb, research director for the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga., says growers in the Southeast might see an opportunity to push their acreage increase even further.

In 2010, says Lamb, the U.S needs production of roughly 1.866 million farmer stock tons of peanuts. “Added with the carry-forward, that would give us a supply of 2.6 million tons. With a demand of 2.1 million tons, that gets us back to the 500,000-ton carry-out that we need. That’s when we start seeing the $500 to $525 per-ton contract prices. We need a production of 1.8 million tons. With an average yield of 3,000 pounds per acre, we’d need 1.227 million acres in 2010 — that’s an increase of 11.5 to 12 percent over last year.”

There may be an opportunity, he says, for Southeastern growers to go a little past that 11.5 to 12 percent acreage increase. “But I would caution against going too much above that mark, because we’ll pay it back if we do,” he says.

Peanut growers in the Southeast (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina) intend to plant 925,000 acres in 2010, an increase of 9 percent. In Georgia, the largest peanut-producing state, planted acreage is expected to increase 6 percent from last season to 540,000 acres.

Plantings in the Virginia-North Carolina region are expected to total 100,000 acres, up 27 percent from 2009. The increase in planted area in these two regions is due to expectations of higher contract prices and the anticipated decrease of corn and soybean acres.

Growers in the Southwest (New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas) intend to plant 176,000 acres, down 5 percent from the previous year. Growers in this region expect to plant more acres to cotton this year.

Shellers have offered contracts for runner-type peanuts as high as $450 per short ton to secure acreage, and many Southeast producers contracted at least a portion of their crop at that price.

Lamb advises that growers cover at least some of their crop at $450. “If we have a drought, prices will go up. But if we over-plant this market with a 733,000-ton carry-forward, and we make a good crop, then $450 won’t be seen again this year. So growers might want to consider covering the front part of their production with this contract. But we don’t need to over-plant the market at this price.”

Looking at other commodities, U.S. corn growers intend to plant 88.8 million acres of corn for all purposes in 2010, up 3 percent from both last year and 2008. Soybean producers intend to plant 78.1 million acres in 2010, up less than 1 percent from last year, but still a record acreage, if realized. All wheat planted area is estimated at 53.8 million acres, down 9 percent from 2009.

All cotton plantings for 2010 are expected to total 10.5 million acres, 15 percent above last year. Upland acreage is expected to total 10.3 million acres, up 15 percent. Growers intend to increase planted cotton area in all states except Arkansas, Kansas and Louisiana. The largest acreage increase is in Texas where producers intend to plant 600,000 more acres of upland cotton than in 2009.

In Georgia, corn plantings are expected to total 380,000 acres in 2010, down 10 percent from 2009. The state’s cotton growers intend to plant 1,150,000 acres in 2010, up 15 percent from last year.

Sorghum growers in the state expect to plant 50,000 acres in 2010, down 9 percent from 2009, and soybean plantings, at 320,000 acres, are expected to decrease 150,000 acres from 2009.

Georgia’s flue-cured tobacco growers expect to plant 10,000 acres in 2010, down 29 percent from 2009. Winter wheat plantings in the state totaled 200,000 acres in 2010, down 140,000 acres from 2009.

Of the four major row crops in Alabama, corn and soybeans had a noticeable acreage decrease from 2009 by 11 and 20 percent, respectively.

Corn planted intentions decreased by 30,000 acres from last year, with producers intending to plant 250,000 acres this year. Alabama’s cotton acre intentions for 2010 were up a whopping 41 percent from last year, at 360,000 acres. Peanut growers intend to plant 170,000 acres, an increase of 15,000 acres from 2009.

Alabama soybeans producers intend to plant 350,000 acres, a 20 percent decrease from 2009. Winter wheat seeded acres decreased 5 percent from last year’s planted seeded acres at 210,000 while oat seeded acres is estimated at 35,000 acres, down 30 percent from 2009.

e-mail: phollis@farmpress.com