“Mississippi has the water, soils, and high caliber growers to produce some of the highest quality peanuts in the U.S. year-in, year-out, and to be a very big player in the peanut industry,” says Marshall Lamb, director of the USDA/Agricultural Research Service National Peanut Research Laboratory at Dawson, Ga.

‘It has been rewarding to watch the peanut industry in Mississippi grow,” he said at the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation’s summer peanut commodity meeting at Hattiesburg.

“Mississippi’s here to stay as part of an industry that’s here to stay. The state’s yield has been steady increasing, from an average a few years back in the 2,800 to 2,900 lb. range to 4,400 lbs. last year.”

Mississippi led the nation in average yield in 2011, but was edged out in 2012 by Georgia’s 4,550 lb. yield.

“As west Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma go through the trials of depletion of the Ogalalla aquifer and continued drought, the industry needs new acres and new partners to grow the demand for peanuts. We’re glad to see Mississippi investing in that growth.”

“Although acreage may be down this year in Mississippi and across the peanut belt, we can look for acres to go back up next year.”

Aside from adverse weather that prevented some intended acres from being planted this spring, Lamb says, the chief reason for the big drop in acreage — Mississippi plantings are estimated to be down about half from 2012’s 48,000 acres — was last year’s record crop and huge carryover that put a damper on the market and sent contract offers for 2013 into a nosedive.

Peanut markets have been on “a wild, wild ride” since government quotas were eliminated, he says, going from years of over-production to years of little more than pipeline supplies, and resulting in wide swings in contract prices offered to growers.

In recent years, both the 2010 and 2011 crops “were rough in terms of quality, and going into 2012 we had some very good offers for farmer stock contracts, which resulted in acreage being increased to 1.6 million. A lot of that crop is still hanging over us — not so much because of the acreage response, but because of the yield that averaged 4,192 pounds across that acreage.

“I would never have believed the U.S. could have that kind of yield; it was absolutely amazing. In 2008 and 2011, we hit what everyone considered a new summit in yield, but 2012 topped even that  — over 2 tons per acre of extremely high quality peanuts, with very few milling losses. We delivered nearly a 3.4 million ton U.S. crop.

“We didn’t necessarily overplant, at 1.6 million acres. We just didn’t count on that record yield, which led to about 1.2-1.3 million farmer stock tons (FST) of carryout at the end of the marketing year.