Testing A New Grading System
The Georgia Federal-State Inspection Service has been working with an industry committee to modernize the peanut grading system. The peanut program requires that all peanuts be inspected by a third party to determine quality, and buying points use the grading qualities to determine value for the farmer and sheller.
Georgia Federal State Inspection Service President T.E. Moye says that prototype machines were tested during this past season. He says that although the equipment works, it is not saving time or money, which are the goals. The camera system is accurate according to testing, but costs and funding will likely be an issue.
On the bright side, Moye says, “The in-shell moisture meter is proving to be the best option to continue in development at this time. Data from the 2020 season has provided insight on areas for improvement. The main priority is to deliver an accurate device that is in the best interest of everyone.”
Building A Better Peanut
The American Peanut Council recently hosted a webinar in its Growing Together series with the topic, “Desirable Traits Through Genetic Innovation.” Peanut Research Foundation executive director Steve Brown spoke with researchers who are working to develop improved varieties through the use of specific genomic traits. Their goals include improving taste and other consumer benefits while also delivering agronomic advantages.
The Peanut Genomic Initiative was completed in 2017, and the foundation is now engaged in phase 2 focusing on marker-assisted selection technologies to improve peanut breeding. Brown interviewed David Bertioli of the University of Georgia, Josh Clevenger with the Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology/Plant Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Corley Holbrook with the USDA-ARS Crop Genetics and Breeding Research Unit.
Strict Regulations, Testing Changes Hurt Export Market
Strict aflatoxin regulations in the European Union are preventing U.S. exports into this high-value market. The U.S. peanut industry estimates it has lost approximately $170 million in sales because of the burdensome testing requirements. Without efforts to negotiate a workable solution that will increase opportunities for domestic peanut operations, farmers and businesses will continue to struggle with prohibitive requirements set by international partners.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative have been asked to prioritize interagency collaboration and industry engagement to negotiate for an effective solution with the European Union.
Aflatoxin is naturally occurring in peanuts and other crops. Peanuts are subject to USDA testing to ensure the product is safe for human consumption prior to entering the food supply. USDA and university researchers are working to address the causes of aflatoxin contamination and to improve post-harvest handling. Collectively, these efforts demonstrate that U.S. farmers and government officials are actively working to ensure that peanuts produced are safe. For the European Union to require even more stringent testing, even changing the rules for U.S. peanuts after arrival at ports, is detrimental to export commerce.
To celebrate the beginning of the 2021 season, Georgia’s 4,500 peanut farmers donated 50,400 jars of peanut butter to America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia, Feeding the Valley Food Bank, the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia, Golden Harvest Food Bank and Middle Georgia Community Food Bank through a partnership with the Georgia Food Bank Association.
A donation of 20,160 jars of peanut butter had already been distributed to the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Second Harvest of South Georgia in March.
The donation was made possible by the Georgia Peanut Commission through Peanut Proud, the industry’s humanitarian relief organization. Georgia-based truckload carrier, SouthernAG Carriers, donated trucking services to deliver the peanut butter. The peanut butter was manufactured with Georgia-grown peanuts by Tara Foods in Albany, Georgia.
“As a farmer, we are proud to partner with Georgia food banks to help feed more of our neighbors in need during this time of uncertainty for many families,” says Armond Morris, GPC chairman. “Peanut butter is one of the most requested food items at food banks because of its shelf life. Peanuts are a nutritional superfood that contain more protein than any other nut, as well as a good source of vitamin E and folate.”
The Georgia Food Bank Association comprises seven Feeding America-affiliated food banks that serve 133 counties in Georgia. Their network of food banks distributed over 180 million pounds of food in 2020 through more than 2,000 partner agencies to children, seniors and families struggling with hunger.