Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas

The Peanut Commission will be closed from Christmas Eve to New Year's Day. Some years back the Board decided that many of the State Holidays come at a really bad time in our work schedule so they moved the most conflicting to the less busy week of the Christmas Holidays. It has worked well and brings the staff back with a rested energy as the New Year begins.

I can't leave for the year though without giving you two treats that are easy and delicious for the Holidays.

Frozen Peanut Butter Pie:

In your stand mixer mix one cup creamy peanut butter, 1.75 qts. (or a half gallon) of light vanilla ice cream, 8 oz. of frozen whipped topping. Once these ingredients are mixed completely pour the batter in two nine inch graham cracker pie crusts. Using your chef's knife shave dark chocolate to sprinkle on top (about 1/4 cup of the shaved chocolate.) Chop 1/4 cup honey roasted peanuts and sprinkle on top. Cover and freeze for 4 hours before serving. Slice and serve with a squirt of Redi-Whip.


Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies:

Mix 1 cup creamy peanut butter, 1 cup sugar, one egg, and one tsp. vanilla. Spoon out on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes. Dress them up by mixing in 1/4 cup chopped pecans, 1/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chunks, and 1/4 cup dried cherries.


A final hint:

Going to that Christmas party and need to take something In your favorite chicken salad mix chopped peanuts and dried cranberries and see what a festive touch it makes.

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Southern Peanut Farmers Federation Meeting

The federation between Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and now Mississippi has been a powerful advent for Georgia growers. Our issues are so similar in the southeast and having this group has significantly extended our reach on issues of common interest.

We are having a meeting of the Federation this week to discuss the issues facing us in peanut production.

We have to begin now looking toward the next farm bill. It may well be different than any we have ever had. I do think the present Administration will have an influence on the direction of farm policy but they will not be anti-farm. A lot of support may be through the use of commodities in feeding programs and the like.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Peanut Industry Meeting

We are at an industry wide meeting in Atlanta right now. What a fun way to spend my birthday. Actually, it is nice to have a chance to search the views of others to see if anyone has the answers to the major question farmers have, "what should I plant."

I think the peanut market will be soft and we are in for a roller coaster ride of feast and famine. A commodity analyst today basically said he feels energy is at a low and will increase and that commodity prices are also poised to increase.

As for peanuts there is not much discussion of price and I see an industry in a wait and see mode.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Georgia Farm Bureau

I was at Georgia Farm Bureau's convention on Sunday and had the time to visit with a lot of farmers. The uncertainty is really out there but strangely enough optimism still prevails. There are some farmers who still have peanuts in the field and they may well stay there based on the soil moisture conditions right now. There is no evaporation so the soil is not drying out at any pace at all.

I am pretty certain from what I hear that peanut, cotton, and corn acres are destined to lower acreages and soybeans will offer an alternative because the price is the best versus cost and the amount of money risked is significantly less. I am reminding farmers that they need to consider soybeans as a peanut in rotation so they need to stay at least to follow with at least two rotation crops and really with three rotation crops would be better.

Considering the dismal market picture I am also recommending that farmers seriously look at the rotation program which would tend to move us closer to a four year rotation on many acres and might help tighten the supply up to levels where the farmer has an opportunity for a profit.

If I could be king for a day I would have all the farmers plant every other day and go fishing and hunting the days they are not planting. We just have too much of everything and no market for it.

I remember being told by some of the major shellers and manufacturers that a reduction in price would increase demand. What happened?

Buckle the seatbelts, the roller coaster is about to take off and it is going to be a wild ride.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Visit From A Farmer

Billy Sanders, a farmer for whom I have a lot of respect came by the office today to get some peanut gift boxes for Christmas.

We visited a bit on what was going on in the world of Agriculture, cotton boll weevil eradication, and more. I asked him to change horses a bit and we did.

I asked him what they were going to do on Sanders' Farms this year. He told me they would have some cotton and peanuts, wheat after peanuts even though usually they did cotton after peanuts. He told me they would have significant acreage in soybeans because the price may be the best of the Commodities and the cost is the least so they offer significantly less risk.

I told him a big challenge I have is convincing folks that soybeans are the same as a peanut when you consider rotation. It is hard to convince some folks in the industry that soybeans on an acre of land means you need to wait at least three years to go back on that land with peanuts. I think farmers understand that but economics sometimes causes us to make less than optimum decisions on rotation. If I could wave a magic wand and have all conventional acres of peanuts on a four rotation and all conservation tillage on three years I would do it.

Farmers are really frustrated with the situation with prices being weak and inputs being too expensive. I also sense frustration of some in the industry who don't know how to handle this feast and famine cycle. Too many peanuts in 2008 and likely too few in 2009. We are a small commodity with no futures market so we feel the ride on the roller coaster a lot more rough at times.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

As we look forward and are puzzled what a farmer is to do in 2009, we need to look at the bounty of God's goodness and give thanks, this Thanksgiving Day.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Approaching Holidays

The approaching holidays are a great time to include peanuts in your entertaining. Peanuts are versatile and really good for you, too.

Yesterday, I made a quick and easy Oriental slaw and everyone loves it.

Just buy the Cole Slaw in a bag. To make the sauce you thoroughly blend together 3/4 cup of Sesame Salad Dressing (I like Newman's Sesame and Ginger), 2 TBSP of creamy peanut butter, and 2 TBSP of the juice from a small can of mandarin oranges. Use a wire wisk and make sure it is blended well.

Now take the mandarin oranges, the bag of slaw, a small bag of slivered almonds and the dressing and toss it all together mixing thoroughly.

Chill in the refrigerator until serving.

To serve top with LaChoy oriental noodles and there you have it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Politics

We had a board meeting today and I sense a lot of hand wringing and gnashing of teeth. I guess some would call me naive but I am not at that point. We have a President-Elect and we will have to deal with his Administration. We won't agree with everything he does but then I can't remember a President I can say that about anyway.

The fact that he has offered his Chief of Staff position to Congressman Rahm Emanuel from Illinois should put some minds at ease. Emanuel, whose middle name is Israel, is a lifelong, practicing Jew who volunteered in Israel during the first Gulf War when Saddam was shooting scud missiles at Israel. Emanuel is a no-nonsense kind of guy who has been elected by margins greater than two thirds in all of his four congressional races.

Obama also named John Podesta to his transition team. Podesta was a Whitehouse Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton and before that was Staff Director for the Senate Judiciary Committee. He is a graduate of the Georgetown School of Law.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A New Administration

As of January we will have a new President and new Administration. I cannot say I am sad to see the old Administration leave. They have been difficult, to say it kindly.

I would think we should have a more amenable group at USDA at the top and I pretty much believe the career folks will take direction from the top.

I know many folks are concerned about the election but let me assure you having dealt with politics for three decades in an up close and personal way; America is still the greatest country on earth and it will still be great the next Presidential election, too.

Politics is like a pendulum, it doesn't swing too far one direction before forces greater than the pendulum itself bring it back in another direction. Though we have a two party system that covers the fringes well, the electorate is still largely based in the middle. God Bless America.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Visit to Georgia Tech

Recently, I visited the Georgia Tech campus to see what our Architectural Studio students were up to. I was amazed at their vision of agriculture and their ideas for a new peanut education and promotion center for the Commission.

They all felt that we need a demonstration area to grow the different crops so visitors can better grasp the depth of Agriculture in Georgia. They all have a vision of a technologically advanced facility and frankly location.

They have looked at "green" construction which improves energy consumption and is friendly to the environment. They even studied a building in Gwinette County which has grass growing on the roof and the medium the grass grows on is a mixture of ground peanut shells and treated sewage sludge.

We should see some interesting final concepts in December.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunbelt Expo

This week is the Sunbelt Expo in Moultrie.

We will complete setup tomorrow and be there the three days cooking peanuts and talking to farmers and other visitors. Actually we see far more non-peanut farm visitors than we see peanut farm visitors and do it more as a consumer show.

We will cook about a thousand pounds of peanuts in three days and the product manufacturers will give out coupons and product.

It will be a busy week.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sunbelt Expo

This coming week is the Sunbelt Expo in Moultrie.

We will be there cooking peanuts and have several related exhibitors in the building. It seems like it was just yesterday that we finished with the last Expo.

As a side note I was at the Georgia National Fair doing a Chef's Demo yesterday and the crowd at eh cooking stage seemed about the same as in the past but the parking lot sure didn't seem as busy.

Busy Fall

It has been a busy Fall so I have been pretty poor at finding time to update my blog.

On top of everything else that normally happens in the Fall I have been spending a great deal of time on activities of an industry grading committee. I have never worked so hard and accomplished so little in 22 years at the Commission. Perhaps after last week it will begin to move a bit faster.

The concept of using an x-ray machine to grade peanuts is really intriguing. It won't do everything but has the potential to speed up the process on a portion of the grade factors. The current system is pretty labor intense and labor is harder and harder to come by these days, especially seasonable labor.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cotton/Peanut Research Tour


Farmers visit with Dr. Tim Brenneman on a research plot looking at improving the effectiveness of fungicide application by spraying at night on the recent cotton/peanut research tour at the University of Georgia's Tifton Campus.

The tour was the first ever cotton/peanut research tour and was the result of a joint effort by the Georgia Cotton Commission and the Georgia Peanut Commission.

The Cotton Commission has done a research tour for years and invited the Peanut Commission to join the effort.

Farmers in attendance were complimentary of the effort and suggested that it should become an annual event.

I am very excited about this and other things we can do with the Cotton Commission. We have a lot of brainpower in both and working together will be good for our farmers.

Architectural Student Tour


Rodney Dawson, right, explains how a peanut combine works on a recent visit by a group of Architecture Students from Georgia Tech.

The students are participating in an architectural studio project at Georgia Tech to offer a number of design concepts for a new educational and promotion center being considered by the GPC board.
The tour of Agriculture in south Georgia was to give them a perspective of the breadth and scope of modern agriculture.

They were introduced to everything from a tractor with Auto-Steer to gnats. The tour also included a tour of the Agrirama to remind them of the heritage of agriculture in Georgia and the prospective site located along I-75 which is one of the busiest Interstate Highways in the US.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Rain

Tropical Storm Faye sent from 3 to 20 inches of rain across the Georgia peanut belt and about the same in Florida and Alabama.

I have looked at a lot of peanuts since the rain, even through he panhandle of Florida and Alabama all the way to the new production area near Mobile. As a rule peanuts look really good right now. I have been surprised that Spotted Wilt has been as light as it is and that White Mold hasn't just exploded.

I saw a few fields in Southwest Alabama that had been hammered pretty hard with Spotted Wilt but not much else that had severe infestations at this time.

Harvest is upon us and hopefully we get good harvest weather.

I think for a rule the rain benefited peanuts more than most other crops, especially crops more sensitive to the wind that accompanied the rain.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Busy Week

This has been a busy week with a lot of things happening at the Peanut Commission.

We had a meeting with Brad Day of the Chamber and the Development Authority to discuss the possible acquisition of the old state patrol location on I-75 to build a new GPC office which would become an educational and promotional facility for Georgia's peanut farmers. The Commission Board has decided to move forward with an offer on the property. We have studied the issue long and hard but the time is now to move forward.

We also had a board meeting and covered a lot of business. The Administration continues to offer challenges in the implementation of this farm bill. The 10 acre base exclusion has caused a lot of problems for a lot of farmers and is a way bigger issue than peanuts. Pennsylvania has the most farms affected.

After the board meeting we had a meeting of the industry-wide grading committee. We seemed stalled for so long and now I am encouraged that there is a great deal of movement toward improving peanut grading.

I think somewhere along the way things will slow down and let us catch our breath but farming is never that way and therefore the Peanut Commission finds itself in a similar situation with always something to do.

September is going to be a busy month with harvest beginning, the Georgia Peanut Tour, A Cotton and Peanut Research Tour, The Plains Peanut Festival, the Farm Bureau Peanut Day, and so much more. Also, our March of Dimes promotion starts this month. This has been one of our great partnerships to get the health and nutrition message to consumers.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

European Trip

I have been in Europe, actually Belgium and Holland this week. I flew out of Atlanta Saturday and arrived in Brussels Sunday. We met Monday and Tuesday with a company which manufactures sorting and scanning equipment and then Wednesday with the Ag Ambassador to the EU.

Today we met with the head buyer for Duyvis which is one of our best customers in Europe. They are owned by Pepsico.

I am tired and so glad to be going home but I dread the 10 hour flight and customs and all and then still having to drive home. I am already tired and that should about do me in.

I miss my whole family.

Saturday is Cole's birthday party so I should see them all there, except Mama and Daddy and siblings and all.

"Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home."

Visit to Duyvis

We visited Duyvis in Holland today. They are one of the biggest if not the biggest customers in Europe. They are a Pepsico brand that does snack nuts, especially a lot of cracker coated nuts. They are really good and it is a shame that noone in the US has tried marketing them. I believe the US market would accept them, especially young people.

We return home tomorrow. It has been a hard trip and by tomorrow night it will have been a long week. I am really ready to get home and hope I can make it home tomorrow night after we get to Atlanta. It is tough driving alone after so long up and ten hours on a plane.

Monday, August 11, 2008

BEST Xray Project

We were at the BEST factory in Belgium all day today. They make several types of sorting equipment and it is pretty interesting how well they can identify different things and sort them. They can sort recyclable garbage, seperate snakes and rats from lettuce, and for some time have been working with laser sorting to seperate foreign material and aflatoxin from peanuts.

More recently, they have started working with an industry committee on grading to develop paramaters which would allow an x-ray machine they manufacture to be used to grade peanuts.

These guys are good at what they can do if we can ever decide as an industry what it is we want to sample for.

I really dreaded this trip but I certainly am happy now I made it because there has been some very serious and good discussion spawned by our visit to BEST.

Here Bjorn Tumas of Belgium Electornic Sorting Technologies (BEST) explains a laser sorter to Randall Taylor with Georgia FSIS, Jack Chastain of Doster Warehouse, and Joe Boddiford of the Georgia Peanut Commission.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Crop Situation

I was talking with Mr. Frank McGill the other day and he told me he planted peanuts on Friday the 13th of June. Now that is late for a man who when he was in his prime as UGA's Mr. Peanut, followed the research ( and properly so at the time) recommendation of April 15th.

The next day I was speaking with a farmer near Hawkinsville who told me they had a lot of peanuts planted in the county in April again this year. Some of the new varieties with greater TSWV resistance may allow earlier plantings though that is not currently recommended.

I noticed peanuts in many stages today on my trip from Tifton to Cordele. Some are not lapping and others were wilting which would indicate that they are in full pod set. It was hot and rains have been very irregular. Friday night Tifton got 2.5 inches and TyTy just seven miles away got about a half inch. Those variations are common and if I were to say where soil moisture is at this time it is critical in most places and subsoil moisture is non-existent in many places so it is rainfall to rainfall if the peanuts are not irrigated.

We need a good tropical storm in September for those June peanuts but it needs to miss the early planted fields which will be ready to harvest.

Being Clear on APRES Comments

My stated disappointment over the APRES conflict with the Southern Peanut Growers Conference was not aimed at the UGA peanut team or UGA. Frankly it was just disappointment in the situation. My Blog generated a lot of discussion. I received a visit to my office and my Chairman was cornered at church on the issue. It was even discussed with me at a Monday night Ice Cream Social at my church.

I am glad the discussion has been generated.

The most valid point that was made came in the visit to my office. It was pointed out that if they had to make a choice APRES was more critical to the UGA peanut team doing their job with the County Agents than attendance at the growers conference. That is exactly my point, this choice should never be one they have to make.

Now you have to understand something about the timing of the Conference. We have a lot of farmers wives who teach school and many of them are now having to be back the third week of July to prepare for classes to start. We are having the conference about as late as we can. The only other choice is earlier which puts us around the 4th of July or even in June and that is a terrible time for farmers to get away from the farm.

I heard a farmer at the Conference say his cost was $400,000 more than last year. He needs every resource to find a solution to that situation or he will be farming up all his equity. Prices haven't kept up with costs.

Ending on a positive note, the new Executive Director of APRES is coming on the Georgia Peanut Tour and wants to sit down and visit with us. I get the feeling he understands the situation and
communication will certainly get us a long way down the road.

Monday, July 28, 2008

WTO Doha Round

If you liked all that the previous trade agreements did for you then you will be enamoured by what the Bush Administration has in store for you now. Friday night they agreed to a bad deal because they didn't want to see the negotiations collapse. In the deal the US agreed to make serious cuts in support and serious reductions in import tariffs. What did we get in return? By all reports not much if anything except being able to say they got an agreement. I just cannot understand why a country as big and strong as the United States can't just sometimes say no?

Thankfully, the Chinese and Indians are not buying this deal so maybe it will fall apart. If not you better hang on for dear life.

22nd Anniversary

It is hard to believe that on Friday I will celebrate my 22nd anniversary at the Georgia Peanut Commission. A lot has happened in that 22 years. The 2 row pull type combine was the harvester of choice. There were Longs, Hustlers, Lillistons, and KMCs. The predominant variety was florunner and some GK 7's and Southern Runners came on soon after. Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus was not a topic of discussion. Pigweed had not yet discovered that they could become resistant to herbicides. Peanut allergy had not found its way in to the media or politics. Diesel was cheaper than gas. We had one fungicide of choice, Bravo. In the office we had one computer. We had eleven full time positions and two student workers working in the mail room.

Jump ahead 22 years. The Mariners just put peanut free sections in a ball park. We dig with guidance systems and pick with 6 and 8 row pickers some of which some are self propelled. We are spraying a host of different fungicides and now doing it at night? At last count we had 15 serious peanut varieties with at least some level of seed supply. We have 8 employees at the Commission that do more than eleven because of technology advances. Fuel costs are crushing farmers like a giant stepping on an ant. And, nobody planned for weeds that there is no way to kill, especially one that produces nearly a half million seeds that can remain viable int he ground for a hundred years.

If I ever did worry that there would be no more need for a Peanut Commission and that maybe I would work myself out of a job, it sure hasn't happened yet. Frankly, I cannot think of anything I would rather have been doing for the past 22 years. I am privileged to have had this opportunity in life.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Critical Time for Crop

I remember that J. Frank McGill gave me a lot of good advice when I first came to the Peanut Commission.

He told me that the best crops had some level of weeds and white mold. What he was saying was a bit akin to what Dr. John Baldwin used to say, "if it don't rain it don't matter." We are in the critical stage needing rain pretty regular and frankly I wish the temperatures were just a few degrees cooler. The difference in 92 and 98 is noticeable. One positive is that the night time temperatures have cooled down enough and that is critical to let that plant rest.

Another thing that Mr. McGill told me was that it was foolish to predict a peanut crop on the 4th of July. Because of Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus we now plant about a month later so this crop is a long way from done.

One thing that is for certain is that this crop is the most expensive in history and peanuts is not alone in that respect. I was speaking to one farmer that said he has spent $400,000 more this year than he did up until this point last year. I know how he lives and don't think he had $400,000 profit to draw from so he is likely farming equity this year. Farmers are most lamenting the ills of cotton right now between resistant pig weed and high fertilizer prices, coupled with lower prices compared to other commodities.

If you don't believe it is tough being a farmer right now you ought to trade your day job for a year. I will not be surprised at all if this year doesn't put some farmers in to retirement or at least make them change occupations. Many of the younger ones with a college education have returned to bank jobs and teaching school.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

More on the Conference

I was reminded that the Department Head for Ag Economics from UGA spent the entire time at the Conference. That was a welcome sight, especially as important as economics is to our producers. We need to have a handle on cost and other issues as much now as ever with costs running out of control.

I was also pleased that the Assistant Dean spent as much time as he did there. I hope Athens knows what a valuable resource they have in Dean Brown if they will use him and trust what he says and not try to convince him to shift to their thinking on every issue. Strength comes from a diversity of opinions.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Growers Conference

This year's Southern Peanut Growers Conference was the best yet according to all accounts. I had more folks come up to me and tell me that they just couldn't believe that the Conference continued to get better.

I was a bit disappointed that we had so few researchers from UGA there. We had an Assistant Dean, a peanut breeder, the newest peanut agronomist, a soil fertility scientist, a retired entomologist, and two economists. Our conference has, for all ten years started the second Sunday after the 4th of July and the American Peanut Research and Education Society this year, to satisfy the researchers in Oklahoma which produces far less peanuts than Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi. I was pleased the Mike Steed of Mississippi State was there the entire conference.

Oh well, we face the same problem next year because North Carolina has again scheduled the APRES meeting on top of ours.

Still, it is a disappointment that the University of Georgia which has the strongest Extension and Research program for peanuts in the nation is so under-represented. I do have to compliment those UGA researchers in attendance for taking a very active role in the breakout sessions and providing valuable information for our growers. Also, Kris Balkom with Auburn and Marshall Lamb with the National Peanut Research Laboratory were there and helped with the Audio Visuals for the general sessions.

One really strong indicator of the success of this conference came from the raves from our sponsors who make this an affordable conference for the attendees. I had two separate sponsors who asked to be more involved in the future and the rest were more than pleased with the entire conference.

The entertainment on Tuesday night was by far the best we have ever had. We had the Alabama Blues Brothers which is the only Blues Brothers tribute band that consists of brothers. They were awesome. We sent a letter telling everyone to bring a white shirt and black pants or skirt. At the door we presented everyone with a black fedora, skinny black tie, and the black shades. It was like a room full of Blues Brothers. We had the movie running on a big screen and the band brought their Blues Brothers Police Car. They played from 8:30 to 11:30 and folks were dancing until the end.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Southern Peanut Growers Conference

Sunday we begin the Southern Peanut Growers Conference. This is our tenth anniversary and it is just getting bigger and better. We will start final preparations tomorrow with more staff arriving Friday and the rest on Saturday. Sunday at noon we had better be ready because registration opens at 12:30. We already have over 400 registered and with on sight registrations we should be in the mid 4's to maybe even near 500 registrants.

Computer Task Force Meeting

I had a meeting in Albany today on an industry computer task force. You would be surprised what all computers are doing in our industry. One issue that is evident to me is that the computers FSA uses in Kansas City need a lot of work and money is just not in the Federal Budget to do it. This impacts everything from farm payments to farm marketings to handling of peanuts throughout the system. This presents a real challenge. Couple this with the individualism of state computer systems for grading and sometimes things can become pretty confusing.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Southern Growers Conference

The Southern Peanut Growers Conference is just around the corner and things are shaping up for this to be another great conference. I have been very concerned about attendance with fuel prices where they are. It is off a bit but seems to have taken a bit of a surge recently to be near normal and could be a normal crowd by the time on site registrations are done.

Peanut Grading

For a bit over a year now there has been a committee in the peanut industry charged with looking at more efficient ways to grade peanuts. I am a bit frustrated that it hasn't moved further than it has but I met with other industry representatives today and perhaps they better understand that frustration as a positive and not a negative. I think there is a good possibility that the right people could mechanize grading if they looked with a different set of eyes than those already involved. There will be a session on grading at the Southern Peanut Growers Conference next week and I will be interested to see what they have to suggest.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Vacation

Though cell phones and the Internet have made it such that I am never totally on vacation at least I manage when i work while taking time off. I will be off the week of July 4th and then the 7th will be back at it finalizing plans for the Southern Peanut Growers Conference. Be sure to have a safe and happy 4th.

Loan Differentials

I really believe that we are on the road to fixing the loan differential problem in USDA. Under- Secretary Keenum committed to work with the industry on this issue and has since intimated the sincerity of that commitment to Washington Sources. With a unanimous industry position against changing the methodology of determining loan differentials coming out of the American Peanut Council Board Meeting and subsequent letters being sent I am encouraged that things will be worked out.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

USA Peanut Congress

The USA Peanut Congress will conclude tonight.

Besides numerous presentations on issues such as the Farm Bill, peanut allergy, foreign market updates, a presentation on the commodity markets, and more, the American Peanut Council Board unanimously passed a motion to oppose changes in the methodology USDA uses to determine loan differentials. This motion had broad support from all industry segments. The President of the APC was directed to send a letter to the USDA expressing the industry position.

Of special note was the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Jay Williams, the retired Ag Engineer from USDA and UGA who was instrumental of the hull scrape maturity assessment used to determine harvest timing.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Leaders Program Graduation

We had the final session and graduation for out Syngenta Young Leaders Program Class V.
It is hard to believe that this is the fifth class and in July Class VI will begin. This was the final educational session and we did an update on the farm bill and regulations and then went through an exercise that helps the group understand politics and why sometimes a Congressman may vote in a way that is puzzling to us.
Tonight was the graduation and the farewell but not goodbye to this great group of farmers from Across the South.
These are some pictures of the day's events and tonight's finale.

USDA Meeting Anything but Encouraging

We met with USDA and a host of people from the peanut industry yesterday in Washington and some by a terrible conference call connection. The meeting was anything but encouraging to me that there is an administrative fix to the effort of some in the Department to try to cut the loan rate significantly on 80% of our production.

The meeting which started with USDA saying they never intended to do this for this year...well I felt lied to right off the bat because they sent out a document and also had a meeting with Ag Committee Staffers that said it was already a done deal and then sent out a subsequent notice that they decided not to do it for 2008. At that point I lost what little shred of trust I may have had left in what used to be the "People's Department." That is gone now. It is now the Department that looks out for the best interest of Big Business. If growers are not benefitting then someone else must be and I can assure you it won't be the consumer.

Of special note was the deafening silence of the Shellers on this issue. I guess they think that one more variable just gives them some sort of advantage or something.

Also, the lobbyist for the Manufacturers and the Western Peanut Growers (he is one and the same by the way) informed the Department of an effort to fix this through the Approps Bill in DC. Smart men don't usually tell the enemy their point of attack so I guess the Manufacturers and Western Growers are in cahoots with the Department on this.

They kept saying they wanted input but why didn't they have this dialogue when we were discussing the farm bill. They said in the meeting they have been discussing this concept for about a year.

It is not encouraging that USDA has no clue that there is no place for a grower in the southeast to sell a Virginia Peanut. I guess they want us to destroy what little benefit the VC guys get from the market place because they have been more conservative in their plantings.

Another thing that puzzles me is that they have apparently been taking advice from a rogue county agent that cost our growers a double direct payment for disaster assistance.

The meeting was simply a stall tactic to get us past the Approps mark up but I hope we are not that stupid to believe that the Department will work with the Industry because they haven't since we changed the program and Charles Hatcher left USDA.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Screen on the Green: ET

This 'Screen on the Green' promotion was even bigger and better than the last. The movie tonight was ET and it is the fourth of this year's movie series. Peachtree TV and the folks with Turner Broadcasting are great to work with and the value is phenomenal.
I still have to stop and watch the commercial with a peanut farm family telling our the peanut story from the farm family perspective.
We had our own farm family helping as Donald Chase and son Greg and daughter Laura came and helped hand out peanuts and Reese's Pieces.
Over 10,000 people showed up for the free movie event. Families had picnics, it was quite orderly for a crowd this size, partly because the crowd comes in over a period of hours, starting at about 5:30 and up until the movie starts at a few minutes past 9 PM. 'Screen on the Green' is wholesome family entertainment.






The movies are all good family entertainment and I am really satisfied that with the advertising buy and this on site promotional event we have well gotten our money's worth out of this promotion.
We were fortunate enough to have Hershey's join us in this promotion. They provided 5700 packs of Reese's Pieces to give away. You will remember that in the movie ET fell in love with Reese's Pieces. Frankly, who wouldn't. I went up to one gentleman while handing out samples in the crowd and asked if he had his Reese's Pieces. He pulled a one pound bag out of his picnic basket. I gave him another pack for being so loyal.

One of the best things we can do to promote consumption is to give folks a sample so they remember how much they like peanuts and peanut candy.

I have admit that I have been guilty of buying something in Sam's or Wal-Mart that someone gave me a sample of, even when I knew before I sampled it what it tasted like.
I have been amazed at the crowd this event has drawn.














People were pouring in even as the park was filling up. At showtime There was not much space left at Centennial Park in the Heart of Atlanta. The crowd was multicultural and multi-national but one thing was common: peanuts. One lady from one of the Island Countries came up and told me that our peanuts reminded her of home.

And, what event would be complete without the huggable Buddy McNutty. The National Peanut Board and the Peanut Advisory Board, which represents the Southeastern Growers in Regional and National promotional events? I might be of the belief that this is the best joint promotion we have ever had.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cotton Commission Meeting

Donald Chase and I met with the Georgia Cotton Commission this morning and had a very productive meeting.

We are all seeking ways to work smarter in the face of inflationary pressures on our budgets. We discussed research opportunities and the possibility of going together to the Governor and the Legislature to seek funding for critical research positions.

We are looking at doing a joint research tour for our boards this fall to better understand what research is being conducted and how we might combine some activities or at least make them work in harmony.

The Georgia Cotton Commission members were most conciliatory and have directed Richey to work with me to work out the details on efforts where cooperation is logical.

They also had representatives of their national and regional organizations in attendance at the meeting.

Their crop condition report sounded very similar to that of the Peanut Commission a week earlier.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Welcome Rain

Friday, I visited with a farmer who is being driven crazy by resistant pigweed (Palmer Amaranth). We also discussed the weather, corn irrigation, and a host of other issues.

Thankfully starting last week and to some serious extent on the weekend we got better rainfall around Georgia's Peanut Belt. We were beginning to need it and for the folks that had a few yet to plant after wheat it was a welcome sight.

The weather started out like last year pushing down from the Northwest. These were real storms with Gulf moisture this week and that is what we need to make a peanut crop.

Yesterday, I even got caught in a hail storm. That was not welcome but I don't think widespread either.

The minister at my Church who gave the benediction yesterday prayed for rain and we got it. I guess we will have to keep him around.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Board Meeting

Yesterday started at 7am with our joint legislative committee. The Committee has representatives from Georgia Farm Bureau, the Georgia Peanut Commission, the Georgia Peanut Producers Association, the GFA, and the National Peanut Buying Points Association.

Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duval joined us for the breakfast meeting and updated us on several issues of interest to peanut farmers. He also joined in the discussion on USDA's misguided effort to lower the loan rate on Runner Peanuts by $7. He has gotten American Farm Bureau involved in Washington to work closely with Bob Redding who represents the Commission to put this issue to bed for future years. The decision to start it this year was rescinded by the Department.

President Duval also came to our 9am Board Meeting. This is the first time in 22 years that I recall the President of Georgia Farm Bureau attending a board meeting of the Commission.

He is a man of Faith and integrity and Farm Bureau is truly in good hands with him at the helm.

We finalized the budget at the board meeting and had a lot of reports on activities of the Commission. We had two pretty intense days with all the Committees meeting and passing the annual plan of work and budget.
After lunch an industry grading committee representing all facets of the industry met in our board room to discuss changes int he grading system and current research seeking ways to make peanut grading more accurate and efficient.
Representatives of the National Peanut Lab in Dawson and of UGA both gave reports and sought input.





Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Committee Meetings and the Budget


We had a full day of budget discussions at the Commission today.
Having had essentially the same revenue since the early 80's budgets can be challenging, but not for farmers who spend a great deal of time discussing ways to continue programs more efficiently.
The Commission Board works well together and I am equally blessed with a great staff. I always find myself surrounded by amazing people who have a big heart for the farmer at the Peanut Commission.
This year's budget, though tight, has some new and interesting things in it. We have a lot going on and I am really excited about some of the new activities we have planned. You all know I am an Auburn Tiger but this year I will hunker down with Uga VI to hear the Georgia Peanuts Message on the Georgia Bulldogs Tailgate Show. If the Dawgs will eat peanut butter they might have a chance against those Auburn Tigers.

Farm Bureau Covers Peanuts


Rick Treptow with the Georgia Farm Bureau Media Department took a break from the Tobacco tour to come to the office to discuss peanuts and the recent action by USDA to attempt to cut the support price for peanuts. USDA had rescinded their decision for a year so at least there was a bit of good news. There is still the act of putting this issue totally to rest for us to be satisfied.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Loan Rate Cut

The Department has withdrawn its $7 cut in the loan rate for this year because the political pressure they were receiving. They are having a meeting with industry representatives on June 20th to discuss the issue so it is not dead but is for the year postponed. This has saved growers in the southeast a $7 cut for this year.

We cannot rest on our laurels though. They are still really working this issue and we need to continue pressure to kill it for good.

We still need growers raising sand about it and telling Congress and USDA to stop this. It was never Congress' intent and they need to hammer that point home down the street at USDA.

More Weather

Last night Albany and some areas of the southwest corner of the state got some rain. They also got some serious hail and lightning and wind gusts up to 72 miles per hour. As you would anticipate with that report those areas were not large because the storms were so intense.

The good news is that the current weather pattern has broken up the near to excess 100 degree days and at least the forecast for today is for a high of 94. This may be good news and bad news. 94 is still hot but is it hot enough to set off the lift to get more thunderstorms? It seems like that is the only way we will get rain right now.

We could sure use a general soaking rain.

A side note:

I asked the former Miss Georgia and current meteorologist for Channel 5 in Atlanta at the GAB meeting Friday night if she was a high or low pressure meteorologist. She looked a bit puzzled so I explained my comment. In the midst of a drought a high pressure meteorologist will say, "it's a beautiful day with only a 30% chance of rain." A low pressure meteorologist will say,"we have a 30% chance of rain and we sure need it."

Monday, June 9, 2008

Weather

State Climatologist David Stooksberry last week has predicted a prolonged drought in the southeast. I don't think anyone I have spoken to is surprised by that news. Even the areas which were too wet a week ago (and there were not too many of them) are dry.

Temperatures are really hot for this time of the year. The say they will moderate starting tomorrow. They are also predicting rainfall in the 40 to 50% range. So far this year we haven't worn out any rain gauges at these percents in most places.

Late last week I noticed a big ridge of high pressure sitting over Georgia and they said it would go out to Bermuda. We never get rain when there is a Bermuda High. Apparently there is an upper level low pressure trough over the peninsula of Florida that should help.

Our weather pattern this year so far has been last year amplified. Meaningful rainfall came from the northwest and moved to the southeast. It rained out before it covered much of the peanut belt. This year is a hotter and drier version of that so far.

Also, the planting intentions were determined by USDA prior to the worst of the Spring drought. Farmers were still optimistic. I think a combination of dry weather and cost have combined to trim the dryland acres in Georgia. It may be better to just take prevented planted credit and let the land lay out this year.

For the peanuts that were planted and are up this could be beneficial if it starts raining but it is essentially too late to think about planting dryland at this juncture. One final observation; when the wheat straw in Georgia has a beautiful golden color as it is baled up you know it has been really dry. We haven't even been able to get a good dew in many places.

Travel; an expensive necessity

Travel is critical in the conduct of programs at the Commission just as it is in getting around from farm to farm and to the tractor or fertilizer dealer.


My trip to Atlanta last week to the Georgia Association of Broadcasters annual meeting left my tank on empty. It cost $70 to fill it up. The Crown Victorias we drive at the Commission get about 20 miles or a bit better on the highway. That is pretty good for a car like that. One area the current board has done to save expense is to buddy up and travel together wherever they can. They will meet at a central location and leave vehicles and carpool together. For Staff this has always been an option because we leave from one location.


That fill up and the news this morning that gas will be $5 by July, when our new fiscal year begins, sent a shiver up my spine. We are doing our budget this week and the board has struggled in the past trying to make ends meet. We have had essentially the same income since 1980 when the Commission assessment went to $2 per ton. I am proud to say that we have worked harder and smarter and have made this work. Our programs are some of the best conducted by any commodity organization anywhere. Our representation of our growers is enviable. Other commodity groups give me a hard time all the time about how much better of a deal we get than they do. This is because farmers set the policy and direction and staff gives its all to carry out the wishes of the board.


Let me give you just one example of how this pays. If we are successful in stopping USDA from cutting the loan rate on Runner peanuts by $7, and remember that the posted price to which contracts are tied is directly tied to the loan rate, we will have paid the grower's assessment for three and a half years. Continuing to deliver a positive return on investment is our focus.


Even with budget challenges fostered by increasing costs all around us I feel confident that we will have a great budget plan for the year when the board concludes on Thursday.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

More on GAB

The awards program ran pretty long but I have to admit this is one of the few banquets I have been to that I didn't either fall asleep or want to get up and leave. They had two ladies presenting the winners. One was a daytime radio personality from WSB-FM and the other was the Channel 5 - WAGA weather lady who also has a history doing some ag reporting and is a former Miss Georgia. Her daughter loves peanuts by the way. Broadcast personalities are in the business of keeping people awake and entertained.

The lady sitting next to me was with her husband who was with WAGA. They both used to work at WXIA which is Atlanta's NBC affiliate. AGA is Fox. She is now in Real Estate and a mom that loves peanuts and peanut butter. She told me she had seen our commercials running on Peachtree TV. She said that she had been in promotion at WXIA and that our TV spot was one of the best she had ever seen. It was warm and she said that Rosemary made her feel like they were old friends. If you haven't seen the commercial scroll down a bit further in this blog and there is a little TV where you can click on the arrow and see it. She and her husband couldn't believe that we produced the spot ourselves and were surprised that Rosemary wasn't an actress and that she really did spread the peanut butter herself and it wasn't a hand model. They also asked if the Corte family really farmed?

Lanny Finch who is the President Emeritus of the GAB told me how much they appreciated our support and the peanuts. A message that was repeated to me numerous times. His son Lan who was doing the technical stuff running the PowerPoint and video and audio clips told me that he couldn't live without my farmers. Lannie told me that we would go out of business without him eating as many as he does.

I had a lot of questions about drought, about the crop condition, even about the farm bill. I reminded a lot of people that with it taking about 30 gallons of diesel on average to produce a peanut crop acre and everything else increasing because of energy costs that things are really tight on the farm right now. This message was not lost on a day that the price of crude exceeded $130 a barrel and the Dow fell 400 points.

Georgia Association of Broadcasters

It was a nice evening and I visited with a lot of folks and peanuts were a hit. The Chef did a peanut pie that was similar to a pecan pie but the peanuts were crunchy and it was delicious.


Channel 10 in Albany carried home a lot of awards for Television and a Station out of Augusta received many GABBY's for radio. It was a crowd of about 150 or more, they had to set another table. That is a lot of people in a small business as Broadcasting is. It just covers all of our lives.


I saw Robert Hydrick who won a GABBY award for best Sportscast. We reminisced about the old days when he covered the Peanut Commission. He started with channel 10 right before I started with the Commission.

We also had peanuts for everyone and lapel pins for them to wear. It was a hit. But the most appreciated thing is our peanut gift basket which is their big door prize. They love it.



The winner was Charis Williams of Cartersville. She was there with her friend Kevin Karel from WBHF-AM. Here I am presenting her the basket loaded with everything from breakfast bars to candy to peanuts to novelties promoting peanuts.

Look for this picture again in the Southeastern Peanut Farmer Magazine.






Friday, June 6, 2008

Georgia Association of Broadcasters

The Georgia Association of Broadcasters is meeting today and tomorrow in Marietta. We sponsor a peanut dessert at their Awards Banquet and give away a gift basket loaded with peanut products. The folks are really nice and are appreciative of our participation. I want to use this as an opportunity to remind them the importance of the farmer and to share with them some of the challenges farmers face each day.

Loan Differentials

I am not yet sure that farmers have figured out that they need to be screaming bloody murder. The Department has just made this change and it makes absolutely no sense. Yet, a USDA Assistant Secretary yesterday told Congressional Staffers that farmers support the move, it is just the grower associations that are causing him problems.

Farmers need to call the Secretary of Agriculture and their Congressman and Senators and let them know that we don't support a $7 cut in our price. Contracts are based on loan rate. Cut the loan and the contract price tied to the repayment rate will also go down.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Why the Concern Over Differentials

The Concern over Floyd Gaibler's disastrous differential proposal should not be take lightly by anyone.

The current system of differentials is longstanding and was arrived at with great consternation in the peanut industry. To say that there were differential fights in the old days might be an understatement. An agreement was reached and it has worked for decades and is not at all broken. Why then does Floyd Gaibler seem to want to turn the apple cart upside down? What will be the result?

I cannot answer the first question, though I will say that Floyd has been the most difficult man I have ever dealt with in the USDA.

The answer to the second question is much easier. If you choose to support 81% of the US Peanut Crop at $7 below the loan rate and then push Spanish, Virginia, and Valencia peanuts significantly higher than the loan the differential becomes significant. Growers in Georgia can grow any of those varieties. University numbers show that we have a $70 advantage in producing Virginia peanuts over the VC.

Don't laugh at that prospect. In the 90's the Planters buyer got irritated at the VC leadership and came to Georgia and contracted more acres of Virginias in Georgia than there were in Virginia. That would not at all be hard now. Is that what we need to do? Absolutely not but economics will dictate such shifts. And with a high price for Spanish as has been proposed our guys could manage a real issue that has been of concern, late cotton plantings which some blame for a slight decline in cotton fiber quality. We need to plant some Georgia Browne seed to get the increase going. Problem is who then will supply those Jumbo Runners? And we can grow Georgia Reds and do pretty well in the Valencia market too.

Remember that prices paid are tied to the loan rate. Reduce the differential for Runners and we need to grow something else.

So next year in Georgia we buy up all the non-runner seed varieties we can. Let's just flood the market. What runners we do grow will be in short supply and will bring a premium price. Mr. Farmer don't contract your runners. And the other peanuts are supported at a higher price so the price has to be higher no matter what. Of course we will help drive the price of the other types down and maybe that will go ahead and put the VC and Oklahoma out of business.

Hey this might be sounding like a good idea?

Wait! What if USDA then flips the differentials? Man, now we need to find some runner seeds and plant them. That will even push the price of runner seed up now. That will help the seed producer, right? Hey, we can push up non-runner seed prices all across the country short term under the USDA proposal? Under the US Proposal for everyone to be supported at $355 you would have to have equal quantities of each type of peanut. Is that good for our industry. Doesn't the market largely determine what we plant?

Do you get the feeling this is like a yo yo on a string?

The Peanut Shellers expressed their opposition for ONE year. I cannot see why they didn't just say no but they have a hard time doing that.

The manufacturers see this as a way to get cheap peanuts but they have not looked at what will really happen. They haven't decided yet to comment but will likely stay silent.

As an industry we need to look at what volatility in price and supply, not just total supply but supply among types will do. This is an all around bad proposal.

We don't want to see other farmers get out of producing peanuts. We don't want to see uncertainty. We need to have stability in the peanut world for a while. USDA will undo all of that with a stroke of a pen if they do this, not to mention that they just cut the price that is going to be paid this year on 81% of the peanuts produced int he US. We need peanut production over a broad distribution to manage the vagaries of weather and to keep a broad base for political support.

Now are you going to contact your Senators and Congressman?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Washington Update -- Screen on the Green

Washington



We continue to fight this proposal by USDA to lower the loan rate differential for runner type peanuts. We have been working to energize farmers to make contacts through the use of our American Peanuts web site. We have also been in contact with the Georgia Congressional Delegation on this issue. Because contracts are tied to loan rate this could really hurt every one of our growers.





Screen on the Green



We are running a commercial and have other activities tied to Screen on the Green. The next movie we are sponsoring is ET on June 19. The folks with Hershey's have agreed to supply us with Reese's Pieces for the audience. Reese's Pieces are made with our runner peanuts.


video


Also, Peachtree TV will be running this promo spot the week before ET.



video

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Screen on the Green



Last week we did this promotion in Atlanta. Peachtree TV which shows classic movies, goes to Centennial Park and for five Thursday nights they show a movie out on the lawn. This was the first week and the movie was Jaws. I was amazed at the size of the crowd. About 7000 people showed up. Along with the chance to exhibit and hand out samples we also got an ad on the screen and TV commercials on the Braves games. We will be doing another on June 19th with the showing of ET. You may remember if you saw the movie that ET liked Reese's Pieces.


Buddy McNutty and the folks from the National Peanut Board were also there as this was a co-promotion we did with them and the growers in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi.













Jeff Johnson with Peachtree TV was the Emcee for the evening and really hammered home the peanut message from the podium before the movie. The crowd started arriving at 5:30 for the movie at 9 PM. Jeff is an avid peanut lover.



























The crowd only grew as dark arrived and the show started.




First Day

This is the first day this blog has been online.

I want to use it to pass on critical and interesting information to growers and others of interest.

A bit issue has come up as of late last Friday, the USDA has decided they don't like the peanut program that Congress passed in the 2007 farm bill which just passed last week and so they are trying to cut the loan rate on runner peanuts by $7. I cannot understand how they came up with supporting 81% of the US crop below the loan rate. We are in a kill mode right now to stop this foolish proposal. Because contracts are tied to loan rates this could cost our farmers nearly ten dollars a ton. That not only hurts farmers but also the economy of rural south Georgia. It is tens of millions of dollars lost for us. Farmers need to contact their Senators and Congressmen and tell them not to let USDA run wild.