Peanut prices, Lamb says, “have really been bouncing around in recent years. In 2011, because of the drought in the Wiregrass area of Alabama and in southwest Georgia, prices really shot up. Uncontracted peanuts at the end of the year were bringing roughly $1,000 per ton, and going into 2012, when we were in a deficit supply situation, offers came out over $700 per ton, which led to large increases in acreage.

“Yields in 2012 were tremendous, averaging 4,117 pounds. That led to more oversupply and lower prices, and in 2013 we planted the smallest acreage since the 1920s, but still produced a 2.137 million ton crop. We’ve had absolutely phenomenal yields back-to-back.”

Those yields dwarf historical levels, Lamb notes. “From the 1920s through the 1950s, we were producing only about 700 pounds per acre. Then we saw a tremendous improvement in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, when Florunner peanuts were introduced.”

In the 2000-2009 period, as varieties continued to improve, the U.S. averaged over 3,000 pounds per acre, and in the last four crop years over 3,700 pounds per acre.

“It has been impressive,” Lamb says, “to be in an industry and see that kind of growth in per acre output, thanks to improved varieties, improvements in technology and production methods, and better management from our growers.”

For 2014, with more peanut acres likely and contract offers in the $400 neighborhood, he tells growers: “Anything you can do to keep your overhead low, this will be the year to do it.  Try to manage production costs to the degree that you can.”

But, Lamb says, “Be careful and don’t overdo it, because you can often do more harm, economically and yield-wise, than good.

“I don’t know many farmers who are throwing money away on production costs — and there’s the very real danger you can cut too much and hurt yourself.”