U.S. peanut producers intend to plant 1.24 million acres in 2003, down 8 percent from one year ago. USDA's first planting intentions report for this year reveals that of the nine peanut-producing states, six intend to plant fewer acres than in 2002.

This first planting intentions report was one of the most eagerly anticipated in recent memory for the peanut industry, as growers prepare to enter their first full year of production under the new peanut provisions of the 2002 farm bill. Major acreage shifts appear to be occurring mostly in the Southwest and Virginia-North Carolina.

Only Florida and South Carolina have indicated an increase in peanut acreage for 2003, with Florida planning a boost from 96,000 acres in 2002 to 110,000 acres this year, while South Carolina is looking at an 11,000-acre crop for 2002 compared to 10,000 acres this past year.

The largest acreage decrease appears to be coming from Virginia, where growers are saying they'll plant 35,000 acres this year compared to 58,000 acres in 2002 — a 40 percent drop. Texas is eyeing a 17 percent peanut acreage decrease, from 315,000 acres in 2002 to 260,000 acres this year. Oklahoma growers intend to decrease their peanut acres by 33 percent, from 60,000 acres to 40,000 acres.

Also showing a sizable decrease this year is North Carolina, going from 101,000 acres in 2002 to 90,000 acres in 2003.

Georgia growers, who produce more than 40 percent of the total U.S. peanut crop, plan an acreage reduction of only 2 percent, from 510,000 acres in 2002 to 500,000 acres this year. The nation's third largest producer of peanuts — Alabama — plans a 5 percent decrease in production from 2002, from 190,000 acres to 180,000 acres.