With many peanut producers averaging record-breaking yields this past year, it all came down to management in determining the winners of the 2013 Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards.
“Our 14th class of winners presented to us the highest level of management as a group we’ve possibly ever seen,” says Marshall Lamb, advisor for the awards program and research leader for the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga.
This year’s honorees included the following: Southwest Region — Murray Phillips, Frio County, Texas; Lower Southeast Region — Tim McMillan, Southern Grace Farms, Enigma, Ga.; and Upper Southeast Region — Jart Hudson, Turkey, N.C.
This year’s awards were presented in Panama City, Fla., as part of the 15th Annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference. Producers from each growing region of the U.S. Peanut Belt were honored for their production efficiency.
“All these individual farmers did a great job of management on their respective farms,” says Lamb. “They are very diverse farms in terms of the crops they grow and in some of the ventures they have that support the farm, and that adds to their overall management capabilities.”
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“This awards program has been a real eye-opener for those of us at Farm Press, just to be able to meet top-notch peanut farmers and get a close-up look at their outstanding farming operations,” adds Forrest Laws, director of content for Farm Press.
The Peanut Profitability Awards Programs is not a yield contest for small acreages, says Lamb. “It’s not even a yield contest on the entire farm. Instead, we take a complete view of the farm in terms of yield, both irrigated and non-irrigated, and oftentimes those are treated separately because the cost structure varies between the two,” he says.
This year was a very interesting one in that aspect, says Lamb, because at least in the Southeast, the differential between irrigated and non-irrigated yields was very close because of plentiful rainfall throughout the growing season.
“Cost of production also is considered, and this is where some of the nominees become very frustrated with me because we have a complicated nomination form. We are truly trying to get a very accurate idea of the true cost of production. And we’re not talking just about variable inputs such as seed and fertilizer. We also look at fixed costs, looking at equipment inventory and how that is allocated to the peanut enterprise, and also the depreciation schedules. That’s where it gets very complicated within the program.
“We also bring in the aspect of marketing. We look at the price you receive for peanuts, and we look at grades. Sometimes grades don’t have that big of an influence, but one point in grade is worth roughly three and half dollars per ton to the farmer, and that comes into play.”
So we take a complete overview from an economic standpoint of the entire farming operation. This year’s competition was very close, says Lamb, especially in the lower Southeast, where the determination of a winner actually came down to the management of fixed costs.
“Looking back, it has been about five years since fixed costs were one of the elements that made such a difference. That goes back to good management. Also, the winning farmer had excellent yields, and his irrigated yields were right up there with his non-irrigated yields, and that goes back to the timeliness of the rainfall.”
In addition to recognition, the Peanut Profitability Award also focuses on education, says Lamb. “One of the most important aspects of this program is the education component, and Farm Press has done a great job of educating our producers through their publications. This group of winners this year certainly proves that point very well.”
Award winners optimistic about future of farming
Lower Southeast winner Tim McMillan said he was humbled to receive the award.
“I’m really just a representative of all farmers, because most farmers today are efficient in what they do and they realize they must keep down their costs. A family farm is part of your life, and your family goes through the ups and downs. My brother Steve is my partner, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner. The majority what I learned on the farm was from my father, and we’ve been blessed to have good help. The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension peanut team has done a good job and given us good recommendations. My formula is that I just do what Extension tells me to do,” says McMillan.
Jart Hudson, winner of the award for the Upper Southeast region, said the success of his family farm was a team effort.
“I’m very blessed and humbled to receive this award. I would not be where I’m at today without my wife and my family. I could never do this by myself. Peanuts have always been at part of my life,” says Hudson.
Southwest Peanut Profitability Award winner Murray Phillips wasn’t able to be at the awards presentation because of obligations on the farm, said Ron Smith, editor of Southwest Farm Press.
“Murray Phillips is a busy man. In addition to 2,000 acres of peanuts, he grows 1,800 acres of corn, along with other crops. He is located about 50 miles below San Antonio, where farmers plant corn early and harvest it about now, which is where Murray is today. He’s particular about harvesting his crops, and when corn or peanuts are ready, he’s on a digger or combine making sure he gets every peanut or every kernel out of field. He typically averages close to 200 bushels of corn per acre and more than 5,000 pounds of peanuts,” said Smith.
Both McMillan and Hudson said they felt better about the next 10 years in farming and agriculture than they have about the past 10 years.
“I’m probably the most optimistic I’ve been since I’ve been farming,” says McMillan. “I started farming full-time in 1983, and basically we did not see a price increase until the past four or five years. We stayed at the same level with our inputs going up. We kept talking about a ‘golden age’ when we’d have to start feeding the world. I hope we may have reached that point — I’m not sure, but I feel more optimistic than I ever have. Our inputs have increased tremendously, but we could be in trouble if our prices go back to where they were for 25 or 30 years.”
Hudson agreed. “I’ve always been cautiously optimistic about the future. I think the future for agriculture right now is the brightest it has ever been,” he said.
Also at the awards presentation, Marshall Lamb was presented with the first Farm Press Peanut Profitability Partner Award. The Partner Award recognizes those individuals or organizations that, through their extraordinary contributions, have helped the Peanut Profitability Award program to grow and prosper.
“Farm Press has done a great job with this program, and it has been my honor to be a part of it,” said Lamb. “This is the type of work that I enjoy more than anything that I do.”
Sponsors of this year’s awards include AMVAC Chemical, Arysta LifeScience, BASF, DuPont Crop Protection, Golden Peanut Company, Helena Chemical Company, John Deere and Company, National Peanut Board, Rio Tinto Minerals, Southeast Farm Press, Southwest Farm Press and Delta Farm Press.
For an in-depth look at Tim McMillan’s farming operation, see Tim McMillan: Peanut Profitability Award winner for Lower Southeast. Jart Hudson’s operation is featured at Jart Hudson: Peanut Profitability Award winner for Upper Southeast. You can read about Murray Phillips’ award winning peanut practices at Murray Phillips: Peanut Profitability Award winner for Southwest.