Thursday, December 31, 2009
Fast forward to 2009. It was a difficult weather year for farmers. Our normal rainfall is about 50 inches in a year and 2009 graced us with over 80 inches of rain and a lot of that was at harvest time. There is still cotton in the fields and the quality and yield is dropping.
Peanut yields were good in most areas but as a farmer told me last week he and his neighbors won't plant peanuts at $425 because there is no money in them. When he figured his taxes he said he paid to grow peanuts. Strangely, he assured me he knows a $525 peanut would cause us to bust the market again.
One bright spot is the new varieties we have. Yields have increased noticeably during the decade of the zeros. I had one farmer tell me he never thought he could have a farm average of 5500 pounds.
I have to hope that the decade of the 10's will take us to yields over three tons and maybe even 7000 pounds for our best producers. The investment growers have made through their checkoff dollars in the breeding programs are certainly paying off.
Ten years ago auto steer tractors were a mere vision. Now they are common place and we may find them even more useful as we look to spraying fungicides at night.
Another bright spot is consumption. Consumption of peanut butter, which is the foundation of our market, has continued to be strong.
It is truly my wish for my farmers that we can have a prosperous year and decade. I am saddened to hear really good farmers talk about the economic hardships they are facing. Remember that farmers feed the world.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The Commission has been in the midst of the Georgia Peanut Tour; did a promotion at Talladega at the race; sampled peanuts at peanut festivals in Brooklet, Plains, and Sylvester; had a great exhibit at Sunbelt; participated in peanut butter donations to the food banks with Georgia Farm Bureau, the National Peanut Buying Points, the American Peanut Shellers, and several individuals; did chefs demos at the Georgia National Fair and the Southern Women's Show; have been to several school ag days; participated in the South Campus Tailgate with the College of Ag at the UGA/Kentucky game; had about 300 banks participating in Georgia Peanut Bank Week; participated in the peanut exhibit at the National Peanut Festival; and the list goes on.
All of this while farmers have battled one of the worst harvest seasons in recent years.
I have made several observations in my 24 crops at the Peanut Commission and some have to do with harvest:
1. Rain at harvest time does not improve average yields. Though the late season warmth and rain was a blessing to some this year who were pushed late in planting for those peanuts planted in May the rain at harvest was not a help. Persistent rain and cooler temperatures have helped no-one late in the harvest.
2. Having to use a lifter to get the peanuts back up after they were rained on post digging is an added cost and does not improve yields, though if done right I suppose the damage is minimal.
3. It is hard to dig peanuts out of mud and do a good job of digging and getting the dirt off of the vines and nuts.
4. If by chance you have to re-shake peanuts, harvest losses increase. This may be good for a dove shoot but not for profitability on the farm.
5. Bad dogs have long tails and this harvest sure seems to act like a bad dog with a long tail.
6. Farmers are amazing folks that they can deal with the vagaries of weather and not go absolutely crazy.
7. Peanuts are not the only crops affected by bad weather.
But then as I enter this time of Thanksgiving I am reminded of everything I have to be thankful for. I have my Faith, my family, and my friends. I work in a great and noble industry. Our farmers have never let me go hungry. I am truly blessed.
So as you sit down this Thursday to the feast of the season give thanks for all the blessings and somehow the ills of a bad harvest seem to fall in to perspective. In August I wondered if we would even have a crop to harvest. Stop and thank God for the bounty and thank him for the American Farmer.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
We had rain when we needed to plant so then that meant our harvest would be late because planting was.
We needed late season rains and warm weather and we have had that of recent.
Now we need it to quit raining and dry up and stay warm. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the near term forecast.
Except for an occasional shower to make the ground ripe to dig peanuts, I would be happy for the rain to stop now and wait until harvest is complete before starting back.
Much more of this will cost us yield and money.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Every time I review what we went through earlier this year I become more and more convinced that there need to be severe penalties for those, on whom the evidence is conclusive were malicious bad actors. The converse of that needs to be that when the Government makes a mistake because they didn't have all the facts, as happened in the tomato scare, the government should have to compensate those injured to the extent of their injuries.
The best crisis management plan is to do a good job and never have a crisis to deal with.
We produce a food product and from the farm supplier to the supermarket must keep the consumer in our focus.
To that end we are working on a food safety certification program for farmers. It would work somewhat like the current system for acquiring and maintaining a pesticide license. It is truly my belief that this approach of education and certification is far better than a regulatory approach which should always be a last resort in making gains toward even greater food safety.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
1 cup packed raw spinach, chopped
4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
6 boneless 1” thick pork chops
6 slices bacon
Stand pork chops on edge and cut a slit lengthwise to make a pocket for the stuffing. Fill pocket with the peanut, spinach, and blue cheese mixture. Wrap bacon around the edge of the pork chop, covering slit. Secure with toothpicks.
Cook in covered cast iron dutch oven over medium high heat for 22 minutes turning occasionally to insure uniform cooking.
We had said all along we needed it to be wet through the first part of October and rains were pretty general earlier this week. We also wanted it to be warmer than normal and with highs in the 90's that is coming true.
If we could get this next rain this weekend and then stay frost free for several weeks it would go a long way toward making a crop in Georgia.
Maybe we can make 3500 pounds but if we do then you had better believe that miracles do happen.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
It is stuffed with finely chopped peanuts, chopped spinach, and blue cheese crumbles. Then you wrap it with bacon, covering the pocket and stuffing and hold that in place with two round toothpicks (flat toothpicks are worthless for this and other purposes including picking your teeth.)
I cooked them in a cast iron dutch oven on medium high for 22 minutes turning several times during cooking to keep them from getting done on the outside before the inside was done. I kept the dutch oven covered while cooking.
I served it today with cranberry-nut couscous (you know it has coarsely chopped peanuts in it), steamed green beans, and a spoon of whole berry cranberry sauce.
We should have the recipe for the chop in print some time tomorrow.
Here is the picture to make your mouth water. Let me know what you think?
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Yesterday I was at the Plains Peanut Festival. There was a good crowd and the Peanut Commission had fresh fried peanuts to let folks sample as well as picking up recipe brochures.
There were also grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from the Buying Points Association and samples of Jif, Planters, and Mars products.
There was the usual parade and of course President and Mrs. Carter were there.
Here are some pictures from Plains.
They were on Armond Morris' farm and got to see maturity testing, digging, picking and got to sample boiled peanuts.
Here are some pictures from their visit.
You can also go to You Tube and find videos on the Peanut Commission page.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
We stopped at two farms including this one in Irwin County to see peanut digging and picking.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I have just uploaded a couple videos to YouTube and you can access those through our website, http://www.gapeanuts.com/.
We heard from speakers from the CDC, UGA Food Science Department, JLA which is a major testing lab in the food industry, and also from John Beasley who farmers kind of view as Mr. Peanut in Georgia. John did a good job of reminding the rest of the industry that farmers do a good job of adopting good management practices but also that peanuts still grow in water and dirt. Both of those things need to be put in check at the farm and once peanuts are harvested water and dirt become the enemy of peanut processing.
Another presentation which was quite informative was done by Dr. Stanley Fletcher on peanut crop specifics and the economic health of peanut farms across the country. Of 22 Representative farms the National Center for Peanut Competitiveness has developed from Virginia to New Mexico only three or four find them selves in a positive situation. All the rest are in the red and Fletcher says this is not a sustainable situation if it goes on long term.
Today the field visits start. Can't wait to see some farmer hospitality and have some fresh boiled peanuts.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Crops are progressing well in most places though still way behind and that won't end until harvest. I was by fields in Tift, Turner, Wilcox, and Dodge counties yesterday and there are some peanuts which look really good and some which are spotty and haven't half way made it to covering the middles.
The best looking peanuts seem to be the ones planted conventional tillage and on a bed like we used to plant peanuts. Not that many of those there anymore because we just can't afford to grow them that way.
I can also tell you that weeds are a problem and production budgets in the future will have to include hand weeding. A lot of folks have seen this increase their cost $50 or more an acre.
It will be an interesting year and the future will also be very interesting.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Tonight was a fun night with more get acquainted time and a little bit of work. Tomorrow morning we go to the classroom and then on tours of local agriculture.
The crowd took over Abuelo's patio for a while and had a nice time getting reacquainted. I just hope by the time we get through a couple more of these I know the guys by name.
Tomorrow we will be doing some media training and sure could have used it tonight as a guy who claimed to be with the CBS affiliate showed up to do interviews. I sure hope our guys did OK with no media training. I guess we will know in the morning.
Here are some pictures of tonight's events.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
My brain went in to gear and I developed a new recipe...well the measurements still will have to be discovered by my Administrative Assistant or anyone bold enough to go with my abouts and try this. You see I don't measure, I just pour and mix and hope for the best.
I poured about a cup of store brand buttermilk pancake mix, about a cup of self rising flour, about a third cup of Jif Extra Chunky peanut butter in a mixing bowl and folded the peanut butter in the floury mix until it was kind of all the way through.
Then I took about a quarter cup of chopped dry roasted peanuts, about an eighth of a cup of sugar, an egg, about a third cup of skim milk and about a third cup of water and with a wire whisk blended all of that together to a thick but pourable batter.
Then I took the two bananas and sliced them lengthwise and then crosswise and mixed that in but left them coarse enough that you have bites of banana throughout the bread.
I have some small loaf pans so I sprayed them with the butter cooking spray and filled them just slightly over half full, maybe about three fifths full and baked in our oven at 400 for 30 minutes (but I warn you our oven cooks slow so it might take a bit less than that.)
I cooled in the pan for about two minutes and then dumped them from the pan and cooled them on a wire rack.
I sampled them when still warm but firm. Mmmm I loved them. Made a nice breakfast this morning, too and tomorrow I will know how well they store in Tupperware.
Be bold try it before we have a final recipe.
Monday, August 3, 2009
The weather forecast is also calling for a heatwave for the coming weekend. We need mid 90's and not high 90's. Also, a ridge of high pressure seems to be poising itself to locate over us so the rain will go away in a hurry if that situation is prolonged.
I am pretty well convinced that Mother Nature is doing her part to eliminate any surplus of peanuts we may have at this point.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Yesterday I picked up sticks and pine cones and changed the oil in two lawn mowers and my weedeater. This morning I picked up more sticks and pine cones which fell in the wind last night. I trimmed and mowed, planted a few plants to replace some I killed with herbicide, I dug my fire pit out some more, watered plants, all this while swatting gnats and sweating like...ran the boat motor to keep it charged and ready, listening to more thunder and there were already some more sticks and pine cones down from an earlier storm which had a lot of wind and three drops of rain.
While I was working in the yard a song or at least part of it got stuck in my head. It is a country song and frankly I am not a big country music fan but there have been some really good super groups like Alabama, of course Waylon and Willie and the boys, you get the idea...Country music imitates life in an amazing way. The guy who penned the words "the girls all get prettier at closing time" has been in a bar late at night.
The particular song today is a Diamond Rio song and it talks about a pine tree. If you have been to my lake house you know i have some PINE TREES. Old, big, productive, pine trees.
Boom there goes the thunder and soon the pines will be pruning themselves and dropping pine cones faster than a herd of squirrels at feeding time.
The lyrics of the chorus of the song are,"I'd start walking your way, You'd start walking mine, We'd meet in the middle, 'Neath that old Georgia Pine...We'd gain a lot of ground, 'Cause we'd both give a little, There ain't no road too long, When we meet in the middle."
That is a life lesson put to music. Thanks to those big and I do mean BIG old aggravating Georgia Pines.
This afternoon and tonight I have been doing dusting, cleaning, vacuuming, mopping, but no gnats. Woohoo.
Tomorrow it is our yard in town and then pack to go to celebrate my Mom's 80th birthday in South Alabama. We are leaving after work because little boys travel well at night.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Click here to view the video on crop progress.
Here are a few pictures:
Strip tilled in a cotton/corn field with a skip by the yellow bucket.
A clean field but notice even the best producers have skips and drown outs and especially a late crop to contend with. I have to wonder if we could measure the skips and down outs what that would further reduce acres in Georgia.
A more mature, early planted soybean field. You can see the weeds are a bit more of a problem here as they are in all of our crops this year it seems.
This part of this peanut field drowned out and had to be re-planted. Notice he dropped in the middle of the row on part of it. How will he decide what to do at harvest on those 8 rows? Uniformity is a big issue in a lot of fields this year.
This is how peanuts should look in late July. What a beautiful field of peanuts but this is far and away the exception rather than the rule in Georgia this year. The weather has not been terribly kind to us. It is amazing what the combination of rain and irrigation can do. I truly believe we are less than 40% irrigated in peanuts this year.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
The government speakers ran a bit long but the researchers in the next session got us back on track and still did a great job with their presentations. I think next year we will discuss a bit more time for the research update. I loved the frankness of our researchers as they talked to growers about things like resistant pigweed and disease and nematode. One thing is for certain you cannot afford to cut corners and still remain profitable. It was also nice to see our soil fertility guy speaking on calcium. There is a lot new there and so we needed the update.
Our industry speakers also covered a lot of ground. It was nice to see how the salmonella outbreak was handled successfully, to hear about the great news on nutrition and childhood obesity, to see the promotional efforts currently underway, to learn more about government programs and food aid efforts in other countries.
The entertainment on Sunday and Tuesday was great and everyone had a good time. And the food....it was magnificent. That is not always the case for large group functions but the Executive Chef at Edgewater is a master at his occupation and loves doing it, too.
The prayer breakfast was one of the best we ever had and the message was one of music and not of words. Gina Lawhon is a master on even a cheesy electronic keyboard with a silly grand piano facade. I must have had 30 folks tell me how great the program was and how she inspired them. God truly is good.
One announcement came out of the final general session...the Peanut Advisory Board has a brand new name to reflect the grower ownership and to more closely compliment its relationship to the sister group the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation. PAB is now "Southern Peanut Growers" and is presenting the flavor standard of the world, southeastern grown runner peanuts.
I really appreciate all of our sponsors and we were especially happy to add a new sponsor this year with the National Peanut Board. Their participation was a nice addition to our conference.
If you weren't there you missed a great meeting at a great location.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I am also excited about the prayer breakfast and the inspiration which Gina Lawhon will provide for us as she shares her gift of her musical talent on the Grand Piano.
We have sessions on activities in Washington, cutting edge research, government feeding programs and feeding the hungry, promotion of peanuts, and a premier panel of experts who will tell us how to use the media to tell our story.
There is still time to register.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Government purchases peaked in 1992-93 when Charles Hatcher, Congressman from Georgia"s second congressional district, was Chairman of the House Ag Subcommittee which oversaw these programs.
We had a very cordial and informative meeting. We stressed the value of peanut butter in feeding programs. We are really cheap when you consider the protein value. We are also a food which is good and good for you.
The folks we met with had some pretty solid suggestions as to how we can get government purchases increased. The system is a bottom up system with requests for peanut butter starting locally.
I really think if we do some pretty serious promotion in this area may have some of the greatest potential for consumption increases of anything we can do. We are talking a lot of money and a lot of pounds of peanuts if we are successful.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Yesterday we had a meeting of the committee which is working to try to enhance government purchases. There is a lot of activity all throughout the peanut industry and I will be going to Washington on Thursday to meet with the folks at USDA who purchase and distribute commodities and foodstuffs.
we can make a solid case that we have a lot to offer in nutritional value and that peanuts should not be ignored. This would be a good year with the surplus from last year's crop to increase government purchases of peanut butter and any other products which fit the needs of the government feeding programs.
Today the program included a lot of speakers in the area of food safety. It may have been the most prestigious slate of speakers I have ever seen at this meeting. They all have re-enforced my belief that the PCA scare will change food safety regulations for all of us. I include farmers in this but the thing we have to do is make sure that any issues which impact farmers are based on science and are not overly burdensome or costly.
This morning most of the peanut brokers hosted a prayer breakfast. As I looked around the room at our hosts I have to say that it was a pleasure to see true family men who love God. One of their own was the speaker this year. Ron Wolff did an excellent job of reminding us that in all things we can be thankful because God is on control. He was a fantastic speaker and it was a really wonderful way to start the day.
Tomorrow we will have speakers discussing nutrition and use of penauts in feeding programs. I am looking forward to that as a refresher for the meeting Thursday.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
All I can say is we need a miracle this year if we ever had one.
I have always heard, be careful what you ask for because you might get it. Maybe the miracle is in the works to fix the ills of a glutted market. You only have to have half as many at $700 to make the same you made with twice as much and $355. Unless the crop starts to look amazingly better I would not contract my production this year.
There is some anticipation that we may forfeit 200,000 tons of '08 crop to the government. If they would send it to the food banks or oil mill that would be the best thing that could happen because it would add some serious market dynamics to our situation.
I hope we all enjoy a roller coaster ride because we have one this year.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The peanut industry is in for a real roller coaster ride. Acres are likely down more than the intentions suggested and the condition of the crop which is planted has a lot of problems. Drowned out low spots, skippy stands, and very late.
If you want to buy peanuts cheap in the Fall you better book now. We have a lot of potential to be hammered with TSWV in many areas. Also, the earliest planted peanuts started out with some weak seedlings and the roots stayed shallow for a while with all the rain.
Another complicating factor for the future is the increase in soybean acreage. The other day I was riding by a field on a country road and thought it was twin row peanuts in wheat until I was told different. The farmer told me he is doing soybeans that way and he is getting a yield response and his cost on soybeans is a lot less.
For peanuts in terms of rotation a Soybean is a peanut. So we cannot push acres up significantly in some areas because we need our other two rotation crop years at the least.
We are a long way from harvest and no crystal ball is perfect but I will say this year is starting out really in a bad place and it will take a miracle to come back totally from today's situation.
I guess USDA was right to hold the price high and they will look really smart at the end of the day if we have a disaster. They just have to hold them until Fall to capitalize on the disaster if it carries forward.
Oh well, prices should be a lot better next year at planting time.
Friday, June 12, 2009
We did our first of two Screen on the Green promotions last night in Atlanta. Peachtree TV puts up a big screen at Centennial Park and shows classic movies. Last night's movie was "Field of Dreams." It is a really great family movie and we made sure everyone who wanted them had peanuts for the movie. I was a bit surprised at the folks who also took recipe cards but they are easy to tuck away and go better than brochures.
I was a bit concerned when I pulled up to the park to unload the peanut plants and I was in the midst of a severe thunderstorm which included some small hail. It passed and they went on with the event. I was worried if it would impact the crowd but don't really think it did. There had to be close to 8000 people there.
This is a promotion we do with Alabama, Florida, and the National Peanut Board and it really works well because it is all farmer and staff manning the exhibit and going through the crowd passing out peanuts.
Friday, May 29, 2009
I also noticed more acres of soybeans this year than in any recent year since the decline of the 80's. Soybeans may be becoming the new peanut. They take up space in a peanut rotation so a farmer who plants an acre of soybeans and chooses to stay on a three year rotation will have had that acre out of peanuts for six years. A four year rotation means eight years. I was talking to one farmer who will get over $9.50 for his beans and they will pick them up in the field. If you consider the cost of soy versus peanut and the risk is sure a lot less on an acre of soybeans. A ton of soybeans is 33.33 bushels or $316.67 per ton. Managed properly growers under similar management could anticipate two ton soybeans compared to two ton peanuts. All with less cost. The question is how much less?
It used to be that the shellers had to determine the cotton to peanut price relationship but now soybeans add a new variable and a more interesting complication with the rotation.
Now, for peanut conditions. Where they are not drowned out peanuts as a rule look OK. Not fantastic, just OK. I am really concerned that we are not developing any depth to the root system based on the excessive rainfall. I am also concerned that seedling disease pressures have been pretty heavy and what will poor emergence, weakened seedlings, and the drowned out skips do to the pressure from TSWV. It has been very light for the past couple of years and we could really get hammered if we don't watch it. Also, half of the crop is not yet planted and the crop insurance deadline is Sunday.
All this said it is going to be another year of challenges for the peanut industry and for farmers in general.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
University recommendations don't show any adverse planting response until at least after June 10.
We have about two and a half weeks left for peanut planting within the planting window. The crop insurance deadline is even closer, though we are asking for an extension of ten days on the deadline.
Sun is forecast finally for the weekend and early next week but we need some time to dry out a bit. Fieldwork won't start in all locations the minute the sun comes out. Those who do rush tot he field I hope they have a strong and long chain.
I am also concerned that if we end up drying off too much we don't have a really strong root system so drought at pod set could be devastating. We need the crop planted and up, then a little stress to get the roots deep and then rain every week at pod set. I don't want much do I?
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The room was packed and a lot of issues were surfaced. Three were peanut issues. The first was increasing government purchases of peanut butter brought up by Armond Morris who serves on an industry committee to enhance government purchases of peanut butter and peanuts. Secretary Vilsack encouraged farmers to contact their local school systems to get them to increase orders and that USDA would follow suit to supply all the orders. He said the system is driven at the local level.
The second issue was the $500,000 gross farm sales cap to participate in government farm programs. Allen Whitehead brought this up and explained that he and his brother were not large farmers and not wealthy but that the cap would disallow them from participating. The Secretary said that this was an issue that would have to be studied further and that perhaps it needs to be an adjusted gross income number. Allen pointed out that southern farms have higher cost higher valued commodities than our Midwestern counterparts.
Joe Boddiford brought up the issue of the posted price. The issue brought the most defensive position form the Secretary, stating that reducing the posted price would benefit shellers but not growers because of the nature of the way peanuts are marketed under options contracts. This is an area where we have more education to do. If a cotton miller has a call option and the market goes down he benefits also. We have to find a way to more adequately define market price. Farmers are being hurt right now because there is a surplus which cannot clear out so prices are depressed. The posted price was always to be set at market clearing prices. Watch out for the train wreck in July and August...it has a great likelihood of happening.
Non peanut issues were raised by organic producers, by a poultry grower from Coffee County who like all his neighbors has lost their integrator and have chicken houses with mortgages and no chickens in them to pay the bills. If you don't feel for those farmers you should. They have a real problem and need some help in a really bad kind of way. Also, the issue of animal identification surfaces and other general discussion on things like energy.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Sounds like the response locally was phenomenal.
Also, KMC took over 320 jars of peanut butter to the local post office Friday. They contacted their dealers and suppliers to also participate. What a great response we got to this.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
The word is spreading all over.
Monica Pearson with Georgia's largest TV station, WSB, responded to my email and has sent out her plea for folks to buy peanut butter and she sent it to the assignment desk to consider as a story.
Shelly in Texas is running with this, too. Man what a great effort.
Peanut butter is a great source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and the fat is highly mono-unsaturated which is the heart healthy fat. A peanut butter and Jelly sandwich and a glass of milk is a perfect meal.
Peanut butter comes in many shapes and forms. There is creamy and crunchy, honey roast, single serve packs, all available in the super market. To me there is not much better than a peanut butter sucker. Just dip the spoon in the jar and lick it off like a lollipop.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus stopped us from planting many peanuts in April, though the 20th of April used to be considered the optimum day to plant peanuts. Some of our new varieties may allow us to move back to somewhat earlier planting dates to help spread and manage weather risk.
I never cease to be amazed at what I hear form farmers. This year within ten minutes of each other on in two phone conversations, one farmer told me how much he hated Georgia Green and another told me they were his best peanuts last year and yielded right at 5000 pounds. I suppose it is true, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
23 years ago when I came to the Commission there were two runner peanut varieties...now we have more than 15. That is not all which has changed. Peanut combines were all two row pull type units, there was a marketing quota, and no trade agreements. I have to believe a lot of the change is interrelated.
By the way be sure to buy a jar of peanut butter and hang it on your mailbox this Saturday. Mail carriers are once again holding the largest food drive in the US.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Today was the first day of exhibition at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show in Atlanta at the Cobb Galleria.
We set up yesterday and this morning bright and early I was there getting ready to cook.
I started with a peanutty chicken salad and it was a hit. It is a simple recipe but finds a great deal of favor from consumers.
I sure needed a dishwasher today but had a sink with a water heater that went from too hot to too cold really fast. I had to wash dishes between every demonstration.
The next demonstration I did a shrimp and mini bowtie pasta with creamy peanut sauce and complimented it with an Asian Cole Slaw recipe that I have yet to do measurements so no recipe but I have to do that and get a recipe card because I sure had to tell a lot of folks about how to make it. The pasta has chopped peanuts cooked in it in the place of pine nuts. The sauce is really easy...a small can of evaporated milk, peanut butter, and salt and pepper and blended with a wisk over medium heat. I sprinkled some Italian Blend cheese over the top.
Washed more dishes!!!
Then I did my new signature recipe which I developed to introduce at this show. It is an Orange/Peanut Oriental Sauce which I served over panbroiled boneless chicken breasts. I use peanut oil for panbroiling.
Leslie had suggested couscous as a simple easy compliment but I had to do something peanutty so I used peanut oil instead of olive oil and chopped some cocktail peanuts and put in the water to boil and then dumped in the couscous and in a couple minutes it was done and boy was I surprised at how that turned out. Never cooked couscous myself and never a peanutty variation.
Everything seemed to be a hit and the show was well worth doing.
Tomorrow Paula Deen will be here. She will be a serious draw to the show. I wish I could get with her and get her to use some of the recipes as she would amend them for her bragging rights.
All my recipes are very consumer friendly and have limited number of resources and have also a shorter prep time. They are convenient.
we gave out a lot of recipes, talked to a lot of folks and had a good day.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
The scheduled speaker had become ill and they called to see if I could fill in. I was glad to because we have a great story to tell.
I addressed the Salmonella issue and then shifted gear to the great benefits of eating peanuts and peanut butter. It is great for individuals who have adult onset diabetes because it stabilizes blood sugar. Women of childbearing age benefit because it is a good dietary source of Folic Acid which helps prevent neural tube birth defects. Peanuts are full of heart healthy, mono-unsaturated fats. They are high in protein...a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a glass of milk is a nutritionally perfect meal.
I also pointed out that two new studies on allergy found that feeding minute and increasing doses of peanut flour to allergic individuals helps reduce the severity of the allergy. Also, that new studies show that delaying exposure of children to peanuts increases the incidence of peanut allergy.
We sure have a lot of good news to tell.
I about pulled my hair out in the past three months and it is refreshing to be back touting the things that make what our farmers grow a miracle food.
That said, work we funded through Dr. Mark Manary, at Washington University in St. Louis has the potential to take starving children and restore them to over 90% of their normal body mass. Plumpy nut is made from peanut butter and milk proteins and some other lesser but important ingredients. It is a miracle food for starving children.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
I feel a bit for the Pistachio folks who are in the midst of a new Salmonella recall. Unfortunately all the press reports start with something like "on the heels of the Salmonella recall on Peanuts" and then tell of the problem in Pistachio nuts. I don't wish them the same misery as we had but selfishly, it does give us someone else to share the spotlight with.
We are seriously looking now at more effort toward rebuilding and less toward responding. That is good news. I knew this time would come but it sure has been a long time getting here.
I feel that there is an air of optimism in the industry and consumers seem to be less ill at ease since the recall is obviously winding down.
In April we have two consumer shows and the Georgia School Nutrition Council at which to exhibit. We are going to have to be diligent and remember what got us here in the first place...peanuts and peanut butter are good and good for you.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Part of the team building was a snag golf tournament. We had everyone pair up and then divided them in to two teams. It was buddy against buddy. It mixes folks and gets them to associate with others. Snag golf is not real golf. You have clubs with short shafts and big heads and hit a ball like a tennis ball to a target made of something kin to Velcro. The losers had to cook supper which was another team building exercise.
We have growers from Georgia, Texas, Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi in this class. It is sponsored by Syngenta and the American Peanut Shellers Association. This class we also included two sheller employees who have been a nice addition to help expand our the leaders vision.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Early in the week the Peanut Foundation reviewed and then funded research projects, many of which are in Georgia.
Wednesday started with my giving testimony to a subcommittee of the House Small Business Committee on the impact of the recent peanut recall on our farmers and industry. I suggested two immediate things they could do; get USDA to set the posted price properly and get USDA to beef up government purchases of peanuts and peanut butter for feeding programs. I pointed out the value of peanut butter for those programs. I also pointed out the economic disaster to our industry if something is not done. For our industry the number could be upward of a billion dollars and the grower impact could be from $225 to $450 million in lost sales. Those numbers came from the National Center for Peanut Competitiveness. They got a lot of attention in the press.
At the same US Peanut growers banded together through their State Checkoff boards, with the peanut shellers joining in and gave 8500 jars of peanut butter to Martha's Table in DC. The peanut butter is used to feed at risk children. Southern Ag Carriers hauled the peanut butter from Albany to Washington for free and Tara Foods (Kroger) discounted the peanut butter heavily. A press conference was held to highlight the value of peanut butter in use at soup kitchens. Everywhere we went we pointed out that jarred peanut butter is totally safe.
The American Peanut Council had a meeting where the outbreak and recall were a large part of the discussion. We studied other groups who had had similar situations and reviewed what we had done as an industry. I was amazed at how similar our situation was to the spinach recall except ours has been far more extensive.
As I look back and see everything that has been done I have to give credit to the experts and their advice. The industry has been responsible in its actions. Had we not been cautious and calculated we might have just done as some wish and sent folks back in the water with the sharks circling, so to speak. Had a bad action on our part caused someone to get ill or die we would have been just as guilty as the PCA. We never approached that. The recall nor the outbreak has yet ended and we cannot force that. It is up to USDA and FDA to indicate that. It amazes me that yesterday we still had products being recalled. Today we will see what CDC reports on the outbreak. I pray for a week when no new illness is reported.
Yesterday Armond and I did interviews with WALB for a story which will run on March 26 on the outbreak and recall. We have to keep telling the story of one bad actor in a good industry.
My best advice to consumers is if you have a question about a product you want to eat call 1-800-CDC-INFO.
Monday, March 9, 2009
I also have to commend my board and their families for helping to staff the event which was a monumental task.
The reason the AMS offered this opportunity was because they knew farmers were struggling with the current Salmonella outbreak and recall of peanut products processed by the Peanut Corporation of America. Had they not given us pretty much the "keys to the kingdom" we could not have done what we did. They gave us a billboard if we paid production cost. That was a $60,000 value for $2500. They discounted tickets to peanut farmers and their families. A $105 ticket for $30 brought out our farmers, too. I was proud of how tall Georgia's Peanut farmers are standing.
Between the billboard, display area and being able to hand out peanut packs at each gate in the grandstands along with the PA announcements and the media mentions on TV and radio This was well over a $100,000 promotion.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Over 2500 items have been recalled and unfortunately Dr. Sundlof with FDA the other day made the comment that the recall could go on for two years. I can only hope he is wrong because if he is right it means the system is broken. I know this comment may draw fire from some but frankly, remember I said if it takes two years to finish a recall of a tainted product the system is not working. We will be injured worse than we already are if this lasts for two years. Consumers are already confused and let that continue for two years and it just gets worse.
For consumers there is some sound advice we can offer. Study the recall list at the FDA website. Just google FDA and it will pop up. If you are in the supermarket you can call 1-800-CDC-INFO. That is a 24/7 hotline which can tell you if something has been recalled. Also, the American Peanut Council has been working with us to provide a list of the products not subject to the recall. That web site is http://www.peanutsusa.com/. Finally, you can ask the supermarket where you shop if they have a register lock on their cash registers so that when a product goes on the recall list it becomes impossible to scan the item and a recall message comes up on the cash register.
For growers, I sense the frustration and fully understand it. Remember please that I was the first one in the peanut industry notified of this problem and I do mean the first...4 pm on January 9, just a little more than an hour before the Minnesota Department of Health held their press conference. I have pretty much lived with this 15 to 19 hours a day, 6 and 7 days a week since then. I dream about Salmonella every night and that makes sleep hard.
Still our response will show what we are made of in the long run. We can have a short term vision and end up just like PCA. What was apparently greed in the short run put them out of business in the long run.
I have heard comparisons about driving a car. Who of us if we knew the make of car our children drove had a recall for faulty brakes would not be cautious and get things checked out? I heard the comment that there are inspectors...under FDA supervision...in the factories every hour. That is simply not true. I heard the comment that peanuts are safe...safe...safe to eat and for the most part they are. I even read where one farmer said Salmonella can't grow on raw peanuts but only grows after the peanuts are roasted. These comments are an emotional response and are not based on any fact.
Here are the facts. Peanuts are a raw commodity and industry protocol discourages the consumption raw and that they are processed before they are eaten. All processing includes roasting at about 350 degrees. That is the kill step in the process. No bacteria survives the roaster if it is roasting properly. If it wasn't the peanuts would not taste good. If there is contamination in a peanut product it comes after the roaster.
For the vast majority of peanut products they are safe but you need to discern the difference and don't buy with no regard to the recall. Consumers have to be responsible in the face of any recall situation. Why would anyone knowingly buy a recalled product and eat it or feed it to family or friends? Still there are a host of peanut products which can be eaten with confidence.
Though there are not FDA inspectors in the factories every hour those companies do their own extensive testing and the peanut industry has a really good track record except for this one bad actor. There is absolutely no way a major brand would risk their business based on a stupid short term greed when they have brands worth more than the product they sell in a year.
Neither should we as growers be irresponsible in the short term. After all without consumers today, tomorrow and in the decades to come, who would we sell our product to? And, if we cause consumers to become irresponsible in the face of the recall because of comments we made we are no better than the folks at PCA that put profit before the consumer.
Think about it.
Monday, February 9, 2009
We have had to spend time to this date working with the media to try to address the issue of a small Georgia manufacturer who seems to have been a bad actor in our industry.
We have also been in discussion with folks in the industry and our elected officials to make every effort from this being able to happen again.
Soon the effort will shift to re-building consumer confidence but this can only be done at a time when the recall is complete and the outbreak has ended.
This will have to be an indsutry wide effort and will need to be done in harmony if we are to get past where we are today. Consumption is off about 25% because of this.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
The actions of what appears to be a bad actor in the peanut industry has been far reaching. I think it was FDA which I saw has classified this the largest food recall in history. It has become the seemingly never ending story.
Today I did an interview with a reporter from National Public Radio and told her what I have repeated time and again to reporters from all across this country. This is not a farmer issue because both roasting and grinding peanut butter reach heats high enough to kill salmonella. Yet my farmers are suffering because we already had carryover from the 2008 crop staring us in the face and now this has made pre-planting contracts virtually non-existent. I also pointed out the fact that our industry has a history of delivering a safe quality product and that there are products all over the supermarket shelves which meet that standard in the face of this confusing issue.
The Peanut Commission along with the American Peanut Council and others in the industry have been very proactive in this situation. After the recall is complete there will be a lot more to be done. We have to re-build consumer confidence in the industry as a whole.
This should demonstrate how fragile our reputation can be and how one bad actor can impact the lives of consumers and thereby the lives of each of us in this industry. I hope that reasonable reform can be made which will not hinder the processing of peanuts but will assure that a bad actor cannot get away with reckless conduct.
We have a lot of work to do.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
A bad actor has created absolute chaos. It is a challenge for all of us.
Sadly it has just complicated the situation for our farmers. It is time to line up operating loans and determine what will be planted and now no contracts means some real uncertainty.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
This Salmonella problem is much more difficult than the Peter Pan problem a few years ago. It was bad for Peter Pan but they did the perfect recall and lived to tell about it. They have since invested a lot of money in their plant and in education of their employees and are back to sales levels about equal to the pre Salmonella levels.
This peanut butter is not something easily identified by label. It is an ingredient which is harder for consumers to readily identify. You can]t just go look at a brand and get a different brand right now, though that will come once the list can be compiled by FDA. We can't fault FDA for their direction but perhaps for the speed which they can act we would like to see things better. Unfortunately they have been underfunded for the past eight years so they don't have the staff to expedite the process.
As far as the warehouse fire...you are sad anytime a warehouse burns because usually it is extensive which this fire was. When the peanut oil starts burning it burns really hot. It is not the way we want our peanuts consumed.
One bit of good news...we have a new President now and it sure seems he has a pretty positive attitude about America. America is a great place and I hope his positive attitude will become contagious in the American public. The thing I love about working with farmers is that they are optimistic. America needs that attitude right now!
Friday, January 16, 2009
We seem to be up to our neck in peanut butter so please please, give your local food bank a case of peanut butter.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
One thing we are covering this year is the prospect that the Peanut Commission could relocate. we don't have time to go in to all the details so I am trying to look at more ways to get this information to farmers.
We have had a lot of farmers who have pointed out that Farm Bureau and the Georgia Cattleman both have prominent locations on the Interstate and that they get a lot of visibility for our farmers.
Now we have the opportunity to do that for peanut farmers in Georgia but farmers need to support the idea or it is not a good idea.
Our current building is in downtown Tifton a bit over a mile and several turns off of Interstate 75. That is one of the most busy Interstates in the US and has a traffic flow of over 60,000 cars a day that pass through Tifton.
The County has a piece of property which is right on the Interstate at the same exit as the Agrirama. It is across the Interstate from the Agrirama and has great visibility for the highway. Tift County built a new State Patrol Post so they have the property available. They understand the importance of Agriculture to Tift County.
The Commission has looked for more than my 22 years there, off and on at relocation. The major problem was finding a place that has the visibility on the Interstate. Now that opportunity seems a real probability.
If we do this we need to be certain that the location is not just an office that houses staff. It needs to be educational, it needs to promote peanuts, and it needs to further technology for our farmers to improve the profit opportunity for Georgia's peanut farmers.
I told farmers at a meeting the other day, in my 22 years at the Commission I can count on one hand the times we have had anyone get off the Interstate to come learn about peanuts or buy Georgia Souvenir Peanuts. This is a magnificent opportunity.
We own the building we are in and have interested buyer prospects. We also have begun to study grants to look at energy management which may have farm applications and technology which can work for farmers. This can be a facility which will make Georgia Peanut Farmers proud and excited.
But if farmers see a problem we need to know that. And, if they see more that we need to do we also need to know these, too.
Think about it and let us know.
This is the twentieth year the Georgia Peanut Commission has exhibited here. Our participation has had several benefits. Most of the folks here are not peanut farmers but they are sure peanut consumers so we can remind them the value of peanuts and peanut butter in their diet.
Perhaps as beneficial a result is that we are building a coalition with the largest group of farm families we can anywhere. The AFB staff and leadership all recognize us and are interested in the needs of peanut farmers in Georgia. In Washington our lobbyist and the AFB lobbyist work very well together. Most of all in terms of Farm Bureau we have assured that Georgia President Duval is the first person they ask in a board meeting on a peanut issue and Zippy is a great advocate for us as well as all of Georgia Agriculture.
This year exhibition is difficult because Mark and I had to drive out Thursday afternoon and all day Friday for the Saturday setup. The trip back is even more tedious because exhibits close Monday at 3 and we tear down load up and head part of the way home, probably until about midnight because Tuesday night we have to unload and reload the truck for our journey to Albany Wednesday morning for our board meeting and the setup for Thursday's Peanut Farm Show. But I assure you I believe enough in this meeting that I am more than willing to do that.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Well anyway Winter or not it is time for all the meetings which happen in the Winter time. American Farm Bureau, the Peanut Farm Show, Georgia Young Farmers and all the county production meetings. Meeting season is upon us and so on the road it is.