Friday, May 29, 2009

An Uncertain Crop

I made a meandering trip to Dothan and back yesterday and today and I can tell you if you are a farmer with corn right now you are really happy you chose to plant corn. It looks absolutely beautiful after the cooler than normal and wetter than normal weather.

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

Crop Insureance Deadline

We are working to try to get the planting deadline for crop insurance extended by ten days based on the daily rainfall and the lagging crop progress.

University recommendations don't show any adverse planting response until at least after June 10.

Rainy Days

We are in a pretty critical situation right now at what should be the peak of planting season. We are getting rain every day and that is not good. The ground is saturated and field work is at a standstill. I usually never fuss about rain but I am getting very concerned.

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

Secretary Vilsack

Secretary Vilsack was in Ludowici, GA yesterday holding a listening session.

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 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

A Million Thanks

I went to the local WalMart Friday to buy my peanut butter for the Stamp Out Hunger food drive and was excited to see no 18 ounce jars of Jif or Peter Pan and the Skippy and Reese's were almost gone.

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

Stamp Out Hunger is Rolling

I was just speaking with Lanier Carson from KMC who makes farm equipment and he told me they are matching their employees jar for jar on peanut butter for the Stamp Out Hunger campaign and they will be taking it to the post office to drop it off.

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.

Don't Forget the Peanut Butter ... Spread the Word

Want to do something to help a peanut farmer then spread the word ...Hang a jar or even two or more of peanut butter on the mailbox on Saturday for the "Stamp Out Hunger" campaign the post office does every year. It is the nation's largest food drive. Tell all your friends to do the same.

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

May is Time to Plant

Well May is upon us and time to plant peanuts.

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 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.