Saturday, January 28, 2023

Sustainable U.S. Peanuts Initiative Completes Year One

It will take two to three years for a baseline, but much was accomplished
in the pilot program.

In 2021, the U.S. peanut industry came together to fund an effort to document, track and communicate the sustainability of U.S. peanut production, starting at the field level with farmers themselves. Since then, the Sustainable U.S. Peanuts Initiative, managed by the American Peanut Council, created a platform to help growers document and measure their environmental footprint and enrolled an initial group of 69 farmers for the pilot year. 

“The Sustainable U.S. Peanuts Initiative is going to assist us in connecting our amazing peanut story to consumers today and in the future,” says Dan Ward, North Carolina peanut farmer. “It will help us document and share the efficiencies and improvements we make every day in our production practices as we compete with producers worldwide.”

Farmers in Southeast Missouri have only been growing peanuts for about 10 years, says Byron Small, peanut farmer, but the crop has certainly been good for the area.

“Sustainability and farming go hand in hand. As a lifelong farmer, my goals always begin and end with resource conservation and land preservation for the future. Not just for my future but for the generations that come after me.

“Our farm is excited to now have the Sustainable U.S. Peanuts Initiative to help the world see what we have known all along: that American farmers consistently use sustainable practices in their operations. Practices such as water management, buffer zones, wildlife management, cover crops, fertility conservation, Integrated Pest Management and crop rotations, to name a few, can now be reported easily and completely online with the Sustainable U.S. Peanuts Initiative. Filling out the online survey also helps growers to think about new or different ways to improve their operation by adding more conservation practices.” 

Year One Key Accomplishments

APC launched the Sustainable U.S. Peanuts grower platform and, with help from across the industry, recruited 69 growers for a pilot program. The participant growers enrolled nearly 40,500 peanut acres, an estimated 2.5% of the total U.S. peanut acreage for 2021.

APC established partnerships and collaborations with multiple organizations in peanuts and other commodities, such as soybean, corn and sorghum.

APC became a major partner in a Climate-Smart proposal from Clemson University titled “Building Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities in South Carolina,” which received a funding up to $70 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. South Carolina peanut growers will receive funds for conservation practices and other improvements, and the project will use Sustainable U.S. Peanuts’ grower platform for their data needs. 

Two other proposals, one from Yale and the other from Auburn University, also included the American Peanut Council as a major partner. Funding from USDA for these proposals is pending.

Worked with the Sustainability Consortium (TSC), to harmonize our program with their data requirements. TSC is the developer of the THESIS KPIs surveys, a significant framework for tracking sustainability commitments from manufacturers. Our platform can provide 80% of the answers to relevant questions from THESIS, which increases the transparency of peanut production and meets the sustainability interests of manufacturers and retailers.

Published an impact report on the pilot year enrollments.

Interesting Findings

Although data from this one year is limited, some of the findings are interesting. For example, most peanut farms are diverse operations. At the farm level, 81% of growers indicated that they grow at least three crops in their operations. In all, there were 23 different crop combinations reported. Rotational crops included cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat and sorghum.

As to the use of crop protectants for the growing season, growers reported making 5.8 applications of fungicides; 0.4 applications of growth regulators; 4 herbicide applications and only 0.9 applications of insecticide.

For conservation tillage, like producers across the country, more than 90% of peanut growers have adopted less intensive tillage to conserve soils and reduce costs over time.

The peanut industry has taken a significant step to increase the transparency of peanut production, address buyers’ interest in sustainability and help growers understand their environmental footprint, plus finding ways to improve it over time. 

This year demonstrates growers’ willingness to participate, and it’s hoped the entire peanut supply chain will support growers in this initiative. 

For information, go to sustainableuspeanuts.org. PG

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