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Peanuts expected to be on the rise in 2017

peanutsPlantings of Virginia peanuts have been on the decline, but for the first time in several years industry analysts expect that to change.

“I think peanuts should be up in the state of Virginia this year,” noted Dell Cotton, executive secretary of the Virginia Peanut Growers Association. “I’m guessing growers will plant about 10 to 15 percent more acres this year.”

That would be an increase of 2,000 to 2,500 acres, based on the 20,000 acres planted in 2016, Cotton said.

Peanuts are still a favorite crop for many farm families in Southeast Virginia, said Gary Cross, Southampton County Farm Bureau president and a longtime peanut grower.

“There’s an emotional appeal to young men and women coming home to the farm,” Cross said. “They’re interested in growing peanuts, and it doesn’t hurt that the price of the commodity is helping a little bit, giving us a little boost when other commodity prices are down.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest figures indicate peanuts were raised on 19,000 acres in Virginia in 2015. Yields were moderate, with about 3,850 pounds per acre. Total production was 73.2 million pounds that year.

Balancing supply and demand is a tricky thing for growers, Cotton explained. Peanut yields increase dramatically when growers have good weather, and too many peanuts means the world price plummets. But this could be the year when everything comes together.

“Fortunately we’re hitting a spot where we’re kind of short on peanuts, so the peanuts are needed this year. That’s not always the case,” Cotton explained. “Hopefully we’ll have big yields; they’ve been down the past two years.

“All of the excess peanuts … pretty much went to China to be crushed for oil,” he continued. “Consumption has been up, and supplies that we have are lower. We’ve had two bad years just in Virginia and North Carolina because of hurricanes, so a combination of all those factors makes the cupboard a little bit bare.”

Southampton County farmers are the state’s top peanut producers, with 7,400 acres harvested in 2015. That’s more than twice the number grown by farmers in the second-largest peanut-producing locality, Isle of Wight County.

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