Income from peanuts slips despite boom in market

Monday, April 8, 2002

VIENNA, Ga. -- U.S. peanut consumption is at a record high, but the crop's profitability for farmers has declined, prompting some growers to leave the business this year.

Peanut farm income slumped to $896 million last year -- the lowest in 20 years and the second consecutive year below $1 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Meanwhile, Americans are expected to consume 2.3 billion pounds of peanuts in the current marketing year, which began in August. That's up from a decade-low of nearly 2 billion pounds in 1995.

Growers, meantime, have been saddled with lower profits, increased foreign competition, higher production costs, four years of drought and uncertainty over the federal government's peanut program.

Some farmers have decided they couldn't continue to pour money into a losing enterprise and have stopped growing the crop.

"I made a decision to get out while I could," said Wayne Smith, 51, of Pinehurst, who has been farming for 32 years. "It wasn't a spur-of-the-moment thing. I've been agonizing since June."

High production costs and low peanut prices make it difficult for farmers to get a fair return on their investment in equipment, seed, chemicals, fuel and labor, he said.

"Those who have crunched the numbers and looked at all possibilities for the upcoming crop year, have seen it was not going to work out," said John Beasley, a peanut specialist with the University of Georgia's Extension Service.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: