National Peanut Board president talks growing value of peanuts

Published 12:07 am Saturday, November 15, 2014

Peanuts were the focal point Friday at the 2014 Ag Appreciation Event, and keynote speaker Bob Parker, president and CEO of the National Peanut Board, was proud to explain how much the peanut industry has soared in the past decade.

Also recognized and awarded were Decatur County Ag men of the Year Greg and Dale Murray, Decatur County Ag Woman of the Year Anita Kendrick and Rebecca Mulkey, the Chamber of Commerce/Mitchell May Ag Scholarship Recipient.

“I think it’s really special we were both selected, because everything we’ve done we have done together,” Greg said. “Our families also helped a great deal with that.”

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According to the 2013 Farm Gate income for Decatur County, peanuts are ranked the top crop and pulled in $31.1 million.

“In the past 10 years, we have seen peanut yields increase to levels that I would never have imagined,” Parker said. “Ten years ago, the average peanut yield in the U.S. was 3,000 pounds per acre. In 2012 and 2013, it was over 4,000 pounds per acre. Even in 2014 the USDA says it’s going to be 3,800 pounds per acre, and we’ve been a little dry.”

Parker said that with the high yields farmers across Decatur County and the rest of the country are producing, the National Peanut Board is forced to develop new ways of selling peanuts.

One new idea is an advertising platform called the “Perfectly Powered Peanut.” The general message the campaign has set out to send is that peanuts are as healthy as any other nut, including almonds. Parker said the ads would be in many different agriculture magazines and could even be found in the New York City subway system.

Other platforms to sell more peanuts involve an education campaign on the truth about peanut allergies and numerous consumer events.

If peanut sales don’t rise along with higher yields, Parker noted it could ultimately have an effect on local farmers.

“What it means to our peanut farmers in this audience is if we don’t find a way to sell more peanuts, it could reduce your acreage by 25-30 percent, and that disrupts your whole farming system,” Parker said.

Thankfully, Parker said foreign exports have been climbing to countries in Europe and Japan. Even China has shown major interest, which by itself bought as many peanuts as the U.S. normally exports in 2012.

“There’s never been a better time to be a part of agriculture, and especially the peanut industry,” Parker said.