Winners of the 2006 Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards earned their honors the hard way — by achieving the highest returns over total costs per acre.

“This contest looks at the profitability of an entire peanut operation, not just one small aspect of production,” says Marshall Lamb, research leader for the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga., and advisor for the awards program.

“We first look at irrigated and non-irrigated separately, and then we combine them for an overview of the entire operation,” explained Lamb at the Peanut Profitability Awards Presentation, held at the eighth annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference in Panama City, Fla. Recipients of this year's awards include Southwest Region, Jim Davis, Levelland, Texas; Southeast Region, Andrew Collins, Edison, Ga.; and Virginia-Carolina Region, Hugh and Landy Weathers, Bowman, S.C.

“When we look at all costs on the farm, we get a true picture of the farm's revenue,” says Lamb. “We look at variable costs, both for dryland and irrigated, and then comes the hard part — examining fixed costs. That can be difficult, but necessary. Two years ago, we had a nominee from the Southeast who had a higher return over variable costs than the eventual winner. But whenever we added fixed costs to get the total return or the whole costs, then things changed.

“In other words, all of these winners must do a very good job of managing their equipment costs to qualify for this award. This year, the competition wasn't that close. These three winners went straight to the top of the nominee pool. They achieved the highest returns over total costs per acre, and that's how the program operates,” says Lamb.

In accepting his award, Davis said there was no secret to growing peanuts. “A lot of things go into producing peanuts,” he says. “The key is good management practices, whether you're dryland or irrigated. We couldn't farm without irrigation, so we manage our water and our inputs. Rotation has been very important to our success. We can't grow peanuts behind peanuts because it'll get us into trouble with diseases.”

Davis says his peanut crop this year “looks really good.” “We plant at about the first part of May. Our crop probably has been watered about six times this year, but we haven't had any disease or insect problems,” he says.

Weathers said he wanted to thank his faithful and loyal employees for helping to make his farming operation a success. “We're fortunate to have been in the dairy business for a long time. Peanuts have been an interesting enterprise for our farm,” he says.

With about one-third of his peanut crop irrigated and the remainder being dryland, Weathers says it looks good at this point in the season. “We have received rainfall at the right times this year. The crop looks very good at this stage. But we've found it doesn't much matter what happens in July, August and September. What matters the most is what happens at digging,” he says.

Collins thanked Lamb and the staff at the National Peanut Research Lab for helping his farm make consistently good yields and profits. “We do whatever they advise us to do, and I enjoy working with them on various test plots on the farm,” says Collins.

Like other farmers in the lower Southeast, he has been plagued this year by drought conditions. “We had about a week and a half of water left on the farm when we finally received rainfall,” says Collins, who irrigates all of his acreage. “Using the Irrigator Pro scheduling system, we've managed to keep our temperatures down, and we haven't had much disease or insect pressure this year. Our crop looks good right now — expensive but good.”

Sponsors of this year's awards include Southeast Farm Press, Southwest Farm Press, Golden Peanut Company, U.S. Borax, Inc., Bayer CropScience, John Deere, SIPCAM AGRO USA, INC., Syngenta, the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation and the Texas Peanut Producers Board.