Odds are that your polite Southern mama taught you some basic rules of etiquette during your formative years, one of those being to always share. This rule was especially hammered home – through force or other means – if you had brothers, sisters or both.
But like any other rule – and with sincerest apologies to mamas everywhere – there are exceptions. One such exception was illustrated recently when the Georgia Peanut Commission Board of Directors, while meeting at the Southern Peanut Growers Conference in Panama City, Fla., unanimously approved a motion opposing the sharing of grower-funded technology with other countries in direct competition with U.S. domestically produced peanuts.
The motion states, “The Georgia Peanut Commission opposes the sharing of technology, developed with peanut farmer checkoff funding, with producers in other countries who compete with U.S. producers for peanut markets.”
The Georgia Peanut Commission has been funding research projects at the University of Georgia and the USDA Agricultural Research Service since 1961, and the funding for the research projects is derived from a $2-per-ton assessment collected from all peanut growers in the state of Georgia.
Through the assessment, Georgia’s peanut growers invest more than $1 million in research annually for peanut variety development; production research relating to disease, insect and weed pressure; and economic competitiveness.
One of the most visible results of this research has been the development of new peanut varieties. These varieties have helped U.S. growers maintain a competitive edge over other developed countries that compete directly for the same customers.
Speaking at that same growers’ conference, peanut broker George Lovatt pointed out that this past year, the U.S. exported a record 650,000 tons of peanuts. A big reason for this, says Lovatt, has been the investments made in new technologies and seed varieties.
The U.S. is now the leading low-cost, edible peanut producer in the world, he says, and average yields continue to climb. In the years 2008 through 2011, peanut yields were steady at between 3,300 and 3,400 pounds per acre. Then, in 2012 and in 2013, average yields jumped to more than 4,000 pounds per acre.
Lovatt sees a new norm being established for U.S. yields. “Is 4,000 pounds the new norm? I personally think it is, but we’ll have to wait and see. I operate on the premise that when it happens once it’s an anomaly, but when it happens twice, I’ve got data. I think we have data that shows in good weather, we can reasonably expect peanut yields in excess of 4,000 pounds per acre.”
Painstaking and expensive research has positioned the U.S. as a dominant player in the world peanut market, but maintaining that competitive edge will require that we protect our technological advantages. The Peanut Commission’s motion is a right step in that direction.