The core goal of the National Peanut Board is “improving grower economics, and developing ways to accomplish that,” says Bob Parker, the organization's new president and chief executive officer.

“The priority of that goal is to increase consumption of peanuts domestically and internationally,” he said at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Peanut Growers Association at Hattiesburg. “This will allow you to grow more peanuts and hopefully get more dollars for them.”

Parker, with 35 years in agriculture and the peanut industry, is only the second person to hold the board’s top leadership position.

“We had 180 persons seeking this job,” says Don Self, Monroe County producer and Mississippi’s delegate to the National Peanut Board, “and we felt Bob was the person best qualified to assume the challenges of leading the organization into the future.

“He has held a number of leadership positions in the peanut industry, including 25 years with Golden Peanut Company, so he knows our business and the issues and challenges we face.

“We take very seriously the dollars the nation’s peanut growers invest in this program,” Self says, “and we feel Bob will be an excellent steward of this investment.”

“I’m really excited for this opportunity,” Parker says. “I’ve spent most of my lifetime working in agriculture and in other areas of the peanut industry. I believe I can use the experiences and relationships I’ve developed over the years to the benefit of America’s peanut farmers.”

One of the first tasks confronting him and the board, he says, is developing a five-year strategic plan and a plan of work for 2013.

Key components of that plan, Parker says, will be “marketing and promotion, product development, working through companies to assist them in securing the supply of peanuts they need, and helping them in any way we can to better utilize our products.

“Another important objective is reputation management — which boils down to making sure we don’t sell fewer peanuts because of some problem, or perceived problem, whether it be food allergy, salmonella, or some other issue.”

Studies have shown, Parker says, that less than 1 percent of the population is allergic to peanuts, ‘but the allergy issue and the media attention surrounding it are a continuing major problem for our industry, and one we need to counteract with facts.

“In many cases, the other 99 percent of the population not allergic may be prevented from enjoying peanut products because of a ban being imposed. It’s always better to confront an issue like this beforehand than to try and deal with it after the fact.”

Going forward, he says, the messaging of the National Peanut Board will be centered on health and wellness. “We have a great story to tell. Peanuts have more protein than any other nut; they’re a great source of over 30 vitamins and nutrients.