Usually, whenever one region of the U.S. Peanut Belt experiences a good crop year, another one suffers a weather calamity, but that wasn’t the case in 2012.

“There wasn’t a weak spot in the entire country, with west Texas and the Carolinas producing bumper crops along with the lower Southeast,” says Marshall Lamb, research director for the National Peanut Research Laboratory and advisor for the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards.

“Considering that we’ll produce about 3.2 million tons of peanuts this year, I’d say it has been a pretty good year. Followed by two years of drought, we had outstanding crop conditions for 2012 that allowed the entire peanut industry to produce higher yields and higher quality than we’ve seen in the past,” says Lamb.

Many in the industry were wondering what growers could do with improved peanut varieties in a perfect year, and they may have found out in 2012, he says.

However, the resulting over-production will dampen prices going into 2012, says Lamb.

“Growers who have not already contracted will have to put their peanuts into loan and wait and see. We will have to cut acreage significantly in 2013 to get supply and demand back in balance.”

Considering this past year’s production, there should be no shortage of nominations for the 2013 Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards, says Lamb.

“A tremendous number of growers had near-record or record-high peanut yields in 2012. The difference this year in determining winners might be in how a crop was marketed, and that’s something growers would had to have taken care of early on, when contracts were still being offered,” he says.

In the previous two years, with severe drought conditions, growers struggled to keep irrigating to make a good crop, says Lamb.

“When we have a year like 2012, farmers who had managed their crops in extreme conditions are able to take it to the next level, and we saw that over and over this past season. It’s never easy to make a crop, but years like 2012 make it possible to reach your full potential.”

Growers can learn from an ideal year just as they can from an extreme year, says Lamb, and that makes the educational component of Peanut Profitability more important than ever.

(For additional information on the Peanut Profitability Awards program and a list of former winners, click here).

Lamb, who was instrumental in developing the criteria for the awards program, has been advisor since the program’s inception. He says it’s no easy feat for growers to be nominated for and then to win the award.

“Peanut Profitability has set a standard of excellence during its existence, and while it has never been an easy honor to earn, I expect another fine group of nominees in 2013.

Based on production efficiency

The Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards are based on production efficiency, honoring those growers who produce the highest yields at the lowest cost per acre.

Awards are presented to growers from the Lower Southeast, including Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi; the Upper Southeast, including Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina; and the Southwest, including Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

The awards program has honored 13 classes of winners from throughout the U.S. Peanut Belt. Since the program’s beginning in 2000, the Peanut Profitability Awards have honored 39 deserving growers or farms.

The Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards Program began with the first-ever Southern Peanut Growers Conference in conjunction with the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation.

Winners of the 2013 awards will receive an expenses-paid trip for two to the Southern Peanut Growers Conference, set for July of next year in Panama City, Fla. In addition, the winners are featured in special Peanut Profitability issues of Southeast Farm Press, Southwest Farm Press and Delta Farm Press.

“While achieving consistently high yields and grades is important, it’s only part of the equation to maximizing profits. The elements of production cost and price are equally important factors in our evaluation of nominees,” says Lamb.

The grower nomination form for the Peanut Profitability Award is very extensive, notes Lamb, and it considers both fixed and variable costs.

“We’ve had nominees in this program with higher yields than most, but they did not correctly manage their cost structure. We’re looking at per-unit costs, and how effectively farmers manage their cost structures,” he says.

The awards program, he says, is based on a producer’s or farm’s entire peanut operation.

“We’re not talking about small plots in select fields. Rather, we look at the overall management by these growers. This includes yields, costs and marketing management for the entire farm, and most of our winners come from sizable farms,” says Lamb.

Assisting with the awards program is an Advisory Board comprised of Extension peanut specialists, county agents, economists and commodity group officials from the major peanut-producing states. They help to distribute nomination forms within their respective states and educate potential nominees about the program.

Farm Press editors, working with Lamb, select the regional winners from the pool of state nominees. Members of the Advisory Board, along with Lamb, are charged with periodically reviewing the awards program to insure consistency and accuracy.

Data entered on a farmer’s nomination form, notes Lamb, should be based on an entire farm operation and not on individual farms or small plots. Actual per-unit costs and returns information will remain confidential to Lamb and his staff.

Growers may submit their nomination form directly to the National Peanut Research Laboratory, or they may submit it to their county Extension agent, peanut specialist or economist. The deadline for all nominations is April 15, 2012.

Growers can access the nomination form via the Internet at southeastfarmpress.com, southwestfarmpress.com, and deltafarmpress.com. In addition, it can be linked from various commodity group websites.

To receive a hard copy of the form, call Farm Press headquarters at (662) 624-8503.

phollis@farmpress.com