May is traditionally a busy month for farmers, especially if you're growing peanuts in the Southeast. Experts at the University of Georgia say you can minimize your risk of getting tomato spotted wilt virus in your fields by planting from May 11-25, so a lot of peanuts are going into the ground about now.

But peanut producers will make another decision in May that rivals in importance that of planting. And this particular decision will affect you not only this season but well into the future.

Growers who paid an assessment to the National Peanut Board this past year already should have received a ballot which they'll use to vote on whether or not to renew the board for another five years. And, unlike many of the decisions you'll make during the course of a growing season, this one should be relatively easy.

The National Peanut Board, funded by a mandatory 1 percent assessment levied on the value of a grower's crop, has more than proved its worth during its first five years of existence.

Established in the spring of 2000, the Atlanta-based National Peanut Board is a research and promotion commodity board that works on behalf of the nation's approximately 25,000 peanut farmers and their families. The board's goal is to support and expand existing markets, develop new markets and facilitate the economical production of high-quality peanuts for consumers worldwide.

The board also funds health, nutrition and production research. It also can enter into cooperative agreements with peanut product manufacturers to promote U.S. peanut products. Effectively combining three strategic initiatives, the board serves as a research and education organization, product marketing organization and industry representative.

Since 2000, the National Peanut Board has invested more than $7 million of grower funds into 135 research projects. The board has committed the maximum — up to 20 percent of the total funds collected — to state production research. The majority of the research investment - 34 percent — has funded breeding, genetics and biotechnology. But the research funds cover everything from disease resistance to a comparative analysis of irrigation systems.

Producer board members, who are elected by their fellow growers, identify the most pressing research needs in each region. Then, rather than throwing money at every research proposal submitted, the board follows a process whereby projects are carefully and deliberately reviewed, with an eye towards putting money back into the pockets of farmers.

It's a system that has worked well for peanut producers, with many of these research projects already at work in farmers' fields. Consider these facts. Without the National Peanut Board:

  • Growers will lose almost $2 million in production research dollars each year, at a time when universities already are cutting back on research funding, especially for peanuts.

  • Allergy research and education will be crippled. The National Peanut Board has spent more than $2 million in funds to help develop vaccines and other methods for solving this major problem for peanut producers. As a result, a vaccine could be just a few years away with continued support from the Board.

  • Approximately $2 million in matching federal government funds could be lost, from the USDA/Foreign Agriculture Service. These funds helped to develop export markets for peanut growers which historically buys nearly 20 percent of the U.S. crop each year.

  • New product development will be cut back. The National Peanut Board has worked with about a dozen companies in the development and promotion of new product ideas. These companies include Dairy Queen, Krispy Kreme and many others.

So take a break from planting, and mark your ballot in the affirmative for continuing the vital work of the National Peanut Board. It very well could be the easiest, and most important decision you'll make this year.

e-mail: phollis@primediabusiness.com