News Briefs

Loan Repayment Extension

Producers now have more time to repay marketing assistance loans as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s implementation of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act of 2020. The loans now mature at 12 months rather than nine, and this flexibility is available for most commodities.

The extension applies to nonrecourse loans for crop years 2018, 2019 and 2020. Eligible loans must be in good standing with a maturity date of March 31, 2020, or later or new crop year (2019 or 2020) loans requested by Sept. 30, 2020. All new loans requested by the end of September will have a maturity date 12 months following the date of approval.

Current, active loans will be automatically extended an additional three months. Loans that matured March 31, have already been extended by USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Loans requested after Sept. 30, 2020, will have a term of nine months.

“Spring is the season when most producers have the biggest need for capital, and many may have or are considering putting commodities under loan. Extending the commodity loan maturity affords farmers more time to market their commodity and repay their loan at a later time,” says U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “We are extremely pleased that USDA can offer these marketing flexibilities at this critical time for the agriculture industry and the nation.”

Peanut Economic Impact

According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the price of peanuts averaged 20.1 cents per pound or $402 per ton last season, 6.5% lower than 2018. The value of the 2019 peanut crop at farm level is $1.129 billion, a 3.5% decrease from 2018. Harvested peanut acres were down 1%.

The highest average price was paid in Texas at $584 per ton, followed by New Mexico at $564 per ton. The lowest average price was paid in Alabama at $370 per ton. Mississippi was next lowest at $372 per ton. Georgia came in at $384 per ton. About 47% of the revenue from peanuts was produced in Georgia, followed by Texas at 12.8% and Florida at 10.5%.

Aid For The Rural Economy

The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27. The $2 trillion legislation represents phase three of relief intended to provide immediate assistance for the workforce and businesses of all sizes.

In addition to direct payments to individuals, extended unemployment benefits and federal loan guarantees, the act provides a number of food- and agriculture-related benefits. It includes funding to ensure children and low-income families have continued access to nutritious, affordable food. It also ensures that farmers have the financial resources needed to offset the more immediate economic impacts of the virus.

The USDA received $9.5 billion, approximately 19% of the total food and agriculture provisions, to provide financial support to farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus. The funding is allocated specifically for specialty crops, producers who supply local food systems and farmers’ markets, restaurants and schools, livestock producers and dairy farmers.

In addition, the Commodity Credit Corp. received $14 billion, 29% of the total funding amount for agriculture. The CCC bolsters commodity and income support programs, natural resources conservation programs, disaster assistance programs and the market facilitation program. The outlay is for fiscal year 2020, so that’s in addition to the second and third tranche of MFP payments, as well as Farm Bill payments made last fall. This replenishment will allow USDA to develop new support programs to assist agricultural producers and potentially help agribusinesses such as ethanol plants.

Direct food- and agriculture-related provisions in the CARES Act total approximately $49 billion. The act provides $24.6 billion for domestic food programs and $15.8 billion to improve access to supplemental nutrition programs in the event costs or participation exceed budget estimates.

Of that total, $300 million is allocated for SNAP improvements in underserved areas such as Indian reservations or U.S. territories. Child nutrition programs received $8.8 billion in additional funding.

USDA Asked To Buy More PB

peanut butterThe Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, the American Peanut Shellers Association and the National Peanut Buying Points Association, under the heading of The U.S. Peanut Federation, recently requested that the USDA include peanut butter in the coronavirus relief funding being used for nutrition programs.

In a letter to Secretary Perdue, the USPF wrote, “As USDA continues to work on providing further assistance, the peanut industry believes that peanut butter is a product that should be considered for those in need.”

The letter was in response to the CARES Act, which includes $1.2 billion in food assistance. The resources will be essential to provide food to those in need during this evolving pandemic, as well as ensure that the products Americans receive are safe and accessible.

“Peanuts and peanut butter provide health benefits for Americans at every stage of life, including pregnancy, infancy, childhood, adulthood and older adulthood … Dollar for dollar, peanuts and peanut butter are less expensive than almost all nut and meat proteins,” according to the USPF in the letter.

Aflatoxin Task Force Initiatives

The American Peanut Council organized an aflatoxin task force to challenge some of the quality issues in shipping peanuts abroad. Recently, the committee expanded its focus on the broader problem of aflatoxin.

The 2019 crop presented significant challenges to all segments of the industry. According to J. Leek Associates, Inc., this crop has the most quality problems since the availability of consolidated testing data. Although multiple initiatives are being taken to mitigate the impact, the cost to the industry is conservatively at least $100 million. Solving this problem will take a coordinated approach across the industry.

Initiatives already underway from the task force include:

• Working with USDA on new testing protocols for peanuts designated for export.

• Funding requests for research supported by all segments of the industry.

• Ongoing European port education and training.

Karl Zimmer, taskforce cochairman says, “This is just the start. We urge all key stakeholders to join us through their representative industry organization. Do your part to help us solve one of the key issues threatening the future of this industry.”
GPC Research Funding

The Georgia Peanut Commission board of directors recently approved $739,693 in research project funding for 2020-21. The projects include 40 proposals submitted by the University of Georgia, USDA Agricultural Research Service and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

“As a peanut grower, I’m proud to invest in the Georgia Peanut Commission and in the future of the peanut industry by supporting research that continues to demonstrate a return on our investment,” says Donald Chase, GPC research committee chairman. “We are proud of our partnership with research institutions and look forward to seeing results that will benefit farmers in the state and the entire peanut industry.”

Georgia’s peanut growers invest $2 per ton annually toward GPC programs, which include research, promotion and education. The research programs primarily focus on peanut breeding, conservation methods, irrigation and water management, as well as pests and weed and disease management.

Additionally, GPC manages funding of $1,260,682 for the Southeastern Peanut Research Initiative for projects in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. These projects are funded through the National Peanut Board.

Buying Point Awards

At its winter convention, the National Peanut Buying Points Association presented three awards: the Peanut Pioneer, Buying Point of the Year and President’s Award.

The Pioneer Award was presented to the National Peanut Laboratory in Dawson, Georgia, which celebrated its 50th year of research in 2019.

The idea of establishing a lab to conduct peanut research originated with the National Peanut Council and the Peanut Improvement Working Group. The scientists pioneered many industry standards that are still in use today. The lab has eight scientists and 28 staff.

The Peanut Buying Point of the Year was presented to Farmers Peanut Co. in Whigham, Georgia. In 1977, Paul Trulock, Sonny Cox and Howard Newberry teamed together to start the buying point. They also sold chemicals, fertilizer and other farmer needs.

In 2000, Danny Vaughan bought Farmers Peanut Co. and started a buying point purchasing for Birdsong Peanuts in cooperation with Damascus Peanut. Today, the buying point handles between 14,000 to 18,000 tons per season.

Currently the team at Farmers Peanut includes operations manager Mike Wilde, and general manager Damon Gilstrap, together with Susie Ulmer. True to the community, Farmers Peanut Co. supports hog shows, cow shows, FFA, 4-H and many other projects.

New Primary Producing State

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service ruled effective April 22 to add Missouri as a primary peanut-producing state under the Peanut Promotion, Research and Information Order administered by the National Peanut Board.

The rule adds an NPB seat for Missouri. Under the order, primary peanut-producing states must maintain a three-year average production of at least 10,000 tons.

The NPB will go from 12 producer-members and alternates to 13.

An organizational meeting for the Missouri Peanut Producers Association will be held to form a certified peanut producers organization, followed by an election to select two nominees each for member and alternate to the National Peanut Board. Because of the pandemic, the meeting had to be held by phone in late April. The National Peanut Board will submit Missouri’s slate of nominees to the secretary of agriculture, who makes the appointments.

From Poster Child To Practical Progress

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Some people say peanuts are the poster child for food allergies. While less than 1% of Americans, including less than 2% of children, have a peanut allergy, the average American thinks 24% of people do. When you search the phrase “food allergies” online, peanuts are the focus of the majority of results. In the media and in discussions of food allergies in public places like restaurants, schools and airplanes, peanuts are commonly the focus.

But is being the poster child always a negative? There is an upside to this attention, including a significant investment of researcher attention and focus resulting in positive outcomes. For instance, the recent FDA approval of the first-ever drug treatment for a food allergy is for peanut allergies. In the area of food allergy prevention, the current recommendations for infant feeding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease focus solely on peanut.

The view has morphed from negative perception to one of potential and progress as scientists unlock a greater understanding of food allergies and prevention. With a heavy focus on peanut allergies, this has potential to spark further research and applications for the other top eight allergens.

The NPB has been honored to provide seed funding, as well as on-going support, for some of the most impactful research in peanut allergies.

Peanut Farmers — Part of the Solution

In 2000, the members of the first NPB recognized their potential at being part of the solution. The story attributes the following quote to Virginia peanut farmer and member of the inaugural board, DeeDee Darden: “If we’re part of the problem, we want to be part of the solution.”

To that end, the NPB has contributed more than $32 million since its inception toward funding outreach, education and research on food allergies. Key findings about prevention and treatment for peanut allergies over the past decade can trace some of their roots back to this funding.

Early Funding

In its first year, NPB funded some of the earliest oral immunotherapy (OIT) research conducted in the United States for peanut allergies. This work, by esteemed researchers Drs. Wesley Burks and Stacie Jones, occurred at both the University of Arkansas and Duke University. They did the pioneering work of OIT for food allergy and because of that early exploration, other researchers and companies have been able to take the OIT concept and bring it to fruition.

“Funding from peanut farmers helped with the framework for OIT,” said Burks, who currently serves as executive dean for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Peanut Allergies Now: Prevention, Treatment

Thanks to these breakthroughs, there’s great hope when it comes to peanut allergies. We now know that early infant feeding of peanut foods reduces the risk of peanut allergies and holds promise to potentially reduce the numbers of children and adults who become peanut allergic. For those who already have peanut allergies, or who will in the future, there’s hope too.

Palforzia was approved in January 2020 as the first and only FDA-approved treatment for peanut allergies. This OIT product has made its way to the market because of the commitments, efforts and sacrifices of thousands of families, study participants, researchers, other support staff, donors and funders. NPB is proud to play a part in supporting innovative and transformative solutions for those with peanut allergies.

Article by National Peanut Board Consultant Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RDN, LD.