At a county peanut and cotton production meeting in January, University of Georgia Extension peanut specialist Scott Monfort brought up the subject of stress. The UGA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences made the topic of rural mental health a priority beginning this year.
Not to make light of the topic, but did they have some inside information 2020 was going to be this bad? I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t felt the strain this year.
In an informal survey of farmers attending the Georgia Farm Bureau 2019 annual convention, a UGA School of Social Work professor found the top five stressors were weather at 71.93%; finances 33.33%; commodity prices and sales 28.95%; farm operating costs 27.19% and government: legislation, regulations and aid 19.30%.
Weather likely ranks in the top again for 2020. Several hurricanes came through the Gulf this year. As you can read on page 17, wet weather has caused problems with pod rot. In more northern parts of the Peanut Belt, cooler weather in mid-September affected pod maturation.
The news isn’t all bad. Consumption has soared with the pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders. See the consumption charts from The Peanut Institute on page 9. Unfortunately, the in-shell market lost out with baseball shut down for an extended time.
Although the industry has made inroads into restaurants and food service with peanuts and peanut butter, the temporary shutdown of those businesses was not as catastrophic as it was for other commodities and was easily made up by what was being consumed in the home.
Virtual field days meant that I could “attend” more of them. Those are good for information but not for taking pictures. I’m sure we all hope winter production meetings can be held in person. Until then, keep plugging along taking what comes and making the best of it.