Wednesday, February 8, 2023

News Briefs

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

By the first week of June, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program had distributed more than 5 million food boxes in support of American farmers and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Farmers to Families Food Box Program was designed to put American farmers and distributors of all sizes back to work while supporting over- burdened food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other nonprofits serving Americans in need, and the program is doing just that,” Perdue says.

“It’s encouraging to see the passion with which farmers, distributors and nonprofits have gone above and beyond to make this program work in support of the American people. Although a momentous milestone, this is only the beginning for the program, and with continued support we expect up to 40 million boxes will be delivered throughout the country by June 30.”[divider]

First Food Assistance Program Payments

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the USDA Farm Service Agency has already approved more than $545 million in payments to producers who have applied for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. FSA began taking applications May 26, and the agency had received more than 86,000 applications for this important relief program by early June.

“The coronavirus has hurt America’s farmers, ranchers and producers, and these payments directed by President Trump will help this critical industry weather the current pandemic so they can continue to plant and harvest a safe, nutritious and affordable crop for the American people,” Perdue says. “We have tools and resources available to help producers understand the program and enable them to work with Farm Service Agency staff to complete applications as smoothly and efficiently as possible and get payments into the pockets of our patriotic farmers.”

FSA will accept applications through Aug. 28, 2020. Through CFAP, USDA has made available $16 billion in financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a 5% or greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production and disruptions to shipping patterns, and the orderly marketing of commodities. Prices for peanuts did not decline enough to make the commodity eligible.[divider]

A Modern Grading System

The USDA’s National Peanut Research Lab has been working on the Peanut Shipping Point Modernization Initiative. In ongoing testing, the Georgia Agriculture Federal State Inspection Service collects data that the NPRL uses to refine the process.
Results from the 2019 crop was made available in a recent NPRL report.

The findings offer pros and cons of the new equipment in relation to the current equipment while referencing how all components are used for loan value calculations.

For the in-shell peanut moisture meter, researchers report progress is being made at a rapid pace. Engineers are working to finalize a production scale prototype, with some components anticipated soon. Each component will be tested and then it will be assembled and tested as a unit.

NPRL director Marshall Lamb says, “It is our hope that the prototype will be ready for full testing and data collection this fall. Any necessary modifications will be made to the prototype following this analysis.

“Based on performance of the unit, we will then seek full scale production and commercial sale.”[divider]

Alabama Peanut Association Referendum Scheduled

Alabama peanut producers logoBecause of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alabama Peanut Producers Association had to delay their referendum earlier this spring. The vote will now move forward, and the deadline is July 23.

All persons engaged in the production of peanuts for the years 2017, 2018 or 2019 shall be eligible to vote. The APPA has been certified by the Alabama Board of Agriculture and Industries as the authorized association to conduct a referendum among peanut producers in the state to determine whether or not an assessment shall be collected on all peanuts marketed in Alabama.

A favorable majority vote means that the current assessment will continue to be collected. The order from the Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries is for all persons, firms and corporations engaged in the business of purchasing peanuts in this state be deducted from the purchase price of peanuts at the rate of 12.5 cents per 100 pounds of peanuts sold.

For information, contact Jacob Davis, APPA executive director, at 334-792-6482 or jdavis@alpeanuts.com.[divider]

American Peanut Council Issues Statement On COVID-19

American peanut Council logoThe American Peanut Council fully supports the U.S. peanut industry as it continues to deliver safe, nutritious products to the world during this difficult time. Manufacturers are working hard to ensure the health and safety of employees while continuing to maintain production and shipment of healthy and nutritious products.

APC officials noted that peanuts and peanut products are plentiful.

Shelling, processing and production facilities continue to put protocols in place to maintain operations and provide grocery stores and other food outlets with the peanut products consumers need and want.

Food production is critical, and the American peanut industry takes these responsibilities very seriously. The nation’s leading health and food and agriculture agencies are also working with industry to ensure a safe and stable food supply.

As more Americans face temporary economic instability, there will be increased demand for nutritious, economical protein-rich foods at food banks and other community food distribution points. Peanut butter is consistently one of the most requested items at food banks.

APC Chairman Monty Rast of South Carolina says, “Unfortunately, social distancing may make in-person, product donation drop offs challenging. For those who want to help, we ask that you make a donation to Peanut Proud, the non-profit industry organization dedicated to humanitarian efforts.

“Together, we can help those in our communities who have become food insecure because of the impact of COVID-19. Thank you for your donation.”[divider]

Gypsum Shortage

Peanut growers have been warned to expect a gypsum shortage this year.

Glen Harris, University of Georgia Extension crop fertility specialist, explained in an Extension alert that many power plants that produce smokestack gypsum as a byproduct are retiring coal-fired plants in favor of natural gas, a cheaper fuel source. This change spells a disruption in supply.

“Gypsum should be applied at early bloom, or 30 days to 45 days after planting. Peak pod fill is around 60 days to 90 days after planting,” Harris says. “A grower can still see benefit from a gypsum application made any time before 60 days after planting.”

A lack of calcium in the peanut pegging zone can cause pops or no kernels.

Harris says USG 500, a mined product, should be available, especially in east Georgia. There may also be some wet bulk, or phosphogyp, available from Florida and maybe even some recycled wallboard. Freight or trucking cost may be a factor depending on location.

Calcium needs to be in the pegging zone or top 4 inches of soil where pods develop. Water is needed to carry the calcium in solution through the hull into the developing kernels. Because of its increased solubility, gypsum can be applied at early bloom.
The other form of calcium, lime, is used to adjust pH and should be applied before planting.[divider]

EPA Regulation May Affect Gypsum

ARA logo Members of the Ag Retailers Association and the peanut industry have written a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expressing concern about proposed coal combustion residual regulations.

Flue gas desulphurization gypsum is used on peanuts, and changes to the current regulations would cause an unfair financial burden and hardship on peanut farmers, the ARA writes.

The association argues that the EPA should treat gypsum being temporarily stored and then applied as a soil additive to farmland for the benefit of crop production and not as hazardous waste. The ARA is concerned that these revisions could also impact the availability of gypsum used as an important fertilizer product.

In the letter, the ARA also notes that as a food additive, gypsum is used as a dietary source of calcium and is an ingredient in canned vegetables, bread and flour. The product is non-toxic and ecologically safe.[divider]

Model Farm Series Events

National Black Farmers logoThe National Black Growers Council was organized about 12 years ago with the mission of improving the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of Black row-crop growers.

A key part of this mission is addressed with a series of regional field days hosted by Black farmers called the Model Farm Series.

“These field days hyper-integrate the industry’s latest technologies and USDA agency programs to demonstrate the possibilities for improvements,” says Dewayne Goldmon, NBGC executive director. “They are designed to reach Black farmers where they are by providing relevant information and education in a hands-on manner.”

The Model Farm Series schedule is as follows:

• July 16: Alheimer, Arkansas, Dell-Cam Farm Inc., (corn, rice, soybeans).

• July 17: Bonita, Louisiana, Hill Farms, (corn, soybeans).

• Aug. 21: Byromville, Georgia, Jibbs Vineyard, (peanuts, cotton, soybeans).

“Key partners in this series include our sustaining members from the agriculture industry, USDA agencies and land-grant universities,” Goldmon says. “We connect the dots on all levels of farm technology by demonstrating the evolution from elementary to high-tech adoption of programs and technologies.”

The field days, which are held at some of the most prominent Black-owned farms, are open to the public and are a great way for people to see the cutting-edge technology used in some of the nation’s leading farms and businesses.

For more information, visit www.nationalblackgrowerscouncil.com or call 870-692-4400.[divider]

Researchers Build Pod Breakability Machine

pod breaking machineMaria Balota, Virginia Tech Tidewater peanut researcher, says there is nothing more important than to meet the needs of the industry he or she works for. A few years ago during a meeting of the Peanut Variety and Quality Evaluation Advisory Committee, shellers raised concerns that pods of the Bailey cultivar break too easily when used for in-shell products.

Because this issue had not been raised before, Balota and others had no way to measure for pod breakability in the PVQE testing.

If there is a need, the challenge will be met by peanut industry researchers. Two technicians at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Education Center helped Balota build a pod breakability machine.

The machine consists of a frame that lowers to allow a pneumatic cylinder to apply force to peanut pods and a scale to record the force needed to break the pods. An air compressor is used to activate the cylinder, and the scale is connected to a computer so that data can be recorded in an Excel file for analysis.

The system is still in testing, but Balota says she believes it will produce reliable information on this characteristic important to shellers, which will be included in future PVQE testing.

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