Farm Bill Hearing For Senate Ag
The Senate Agriculture Committee held its first Farm Bill hearing in the new Congress on Feb. 1, 2023, with newly sworn in USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, Alexis Taylor, a key witness. Other witnesses were Jenny Moffitt, USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, and Sarah Charles, Assistant to the Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development. The hearing covered USDA export promotion and U.S. food aid programs, both of which the American Peanut Council is involved with to benefit the U.S. peanut industry. USDA is providing $3.3 million in 2023 to APC for its export promotion programs. USAID purchased more than $100 million of RUTF/RUSF products in FY2022 and has committed to purchasing an additional $200 million in the coming years to help address growing malnutrition rates around the world.
While no peanut-specific issues were raised at the hearing, some senators expressed concern with the Administration’s lack of market access (i.e., tariff) negotiations. Taylor responded by highlighting USDA’s work to resolve non-tariff trade barriers and the importance of export market development programs. Taylor also noted that demand for export promotion funding outstrips available funds. Some senators also expressed concern on the use of cash for food aid purchases, rather than donation of U.S. commodities.
Legislation Seeks To Expand Export Programs
Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate proposing to double funding authorizations for USDA export promotion programs. Titled the Expanding Agricultural Exports Act of 2023, the bills (S.176 and H.R. 648), if enacted, would authorize an increase in funding for the Market Access Program from $200 million to $400 million annually, and for the Foreign Market Development Program from $34.5 million to $69 million annually.
The American Peanut Council is a cooperator with USDA, receiving export promotion funds from both programs.
Industry Mobilizes To Prevent Peanut Allergies Through WIC
The federal supplemental nutrition program for low-income persons, called Women, Infants and Children or WIC, serves 2 million babies each year. The WIC Food Package is undergoing an update, which only happens about every 10 years, to bring the package into alignment with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. However, at least one critical piece is missing.
As proposed, the updated food packages do not encourage or support the early introduction of peanut-containing foods to prevent peanut allergies. This practice is solidly supported by science and recommended in the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans (and by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the American Academy of Pediatrics). Given the number of babies WIC serves and the long period between package updates, decisions made now will impact possibly millions of families for years to come.
Industry and state organizations, rallied by the National Peanut Board, were asked to comment during the public comment period to try to right this wrong. The deadline for comments was February 21, and it is hoped that the agency will consider this input before issuing a final rule.
Four Farmers Named To National Peanut Board
Tom Vilsack, USDA Ag Secretary, recently appointed four members and four alternates to serve on the National Peanut Board. The appointees will serve three-year terms, from Jan. 1, 2023, to Dec. 31, 2025, with the exceptions of the at-large appointees whose terms will begin immediately and end Dec. 31, 2024.
Greg Baltz of Pocahontas is the reappointed member from Arkansas. Allen Donner of Manila is the reappointed alternate from Arkansas.
Clay Deane of Sikeston is the reappointed member from Missouri. Russ Hoggard of Portageville is the reappointed alternate from Missouri.
Mark DeLeon of Erick is the new member from Oklahoma. Les Crall of Weatherford is the new alternate from Oklahoma. Crall previously served as a member and was NPB’s 2022 chairman.
Lucy Shackelford of Bonita, Louisiana, is the newly appointed at-large member. Shackelford previously served as at-large alternate. Clifford Neece of Portales, New Mexico, is the new at-large alternate.
The Board is comprised of 12 producer members and their alternates. Eleven members and alternates are from the primary peanut-producing states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. An at-large member and alternate represent the minor peanut producing states.
Grower Paul Rogers Elected NPB Chairman
Paul Rogers of Wakefield, Virginia, was elected the 2023 National Peanut Board chairman this past December. Rogers serves as active chairman from January 2023 until December 2023. Rogers’ tenure has included roles as vice chairman, treasurer and secretary.
“I am excited to continue to take our production and allergy research to higher levels in efforts to provide stability and profitability to the American peanut farmer, as well as provide a sustainable and nutritious food to feed the world,” Rogers says. “I also take the matter of replacing our current CEO Bob Parker very seriously and look forward to working closely with the search committee and Vetted Solutions to find the right successor for Bob.”
Rogers graduated from Old Dominion University with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering technology and has been farming since graduating in 1997. Rogers is a member of several agricultural organizations including the Virginia Crop Improvement Association, Virginia Cotton Growers Association, Virginia Farm Bureau Cotton Advisory Board and Virginia Cotton Board. Rogers currently serves as a board member for Colonial Farm Credit, and as past chair and current director of local Southern States Petroleum Co-op.
Rogers and his wife, Dawn, have three children, Lauren, Jake and Cade.
Rebuilding Iconic Peanut Monument In Georgia
AgGeorgia Farm Credit has donated the final $10,000 needed to rebuild the big peanut monument that was destroyed by Hurricane Michael in 2018. This donation, along with funds from the Ashburn Turner County Chamber of Commerce, the Turner County Young Farmers and the Georgia Department of Agriculture will ensure that the monument will be restored to its prominent location along Interstate 75.
Ashley Miller, Turner County Chamber of Commerce executive director, says, “The Big Peanut monument is a tribute to all South Georgia’s farmers and agricultural industries that are the backbone of our economy. We are proud that Turner County is home to this testament, and we are working hard to get it back up, repaired and restored to all its former glory.”
Alabama-Florida Peanut Trade Show
Peanut growers from Alabama and Florida were able to fine-tune their farming operations with information gained at the Alabama-Florida Peanut Trade Show Feb. 2, 2023, at the National Peanut Festival fairgrounds in Dothan, Alabama. The trade show was hosted by Alabama Peanut Producers Association and Florida Peanut Producers Association, and sponsored by National Peanut Board.
More than 400 peanut growers and industry partners from Alabama and Florida attended to view industry products and services offered by more than 70 exhibitors.
Researchers from Auburn University and the University of Florida were on hand to showcase the peanut research they are working on with the support of grower check-off dollars. Growers could talk to the researchers one on one about the research projects.
During the lunch program, attendees received an update from the National Peanut Board by Bob Parker. Bob Redding of the Redding Firm gave a legislative update, and Dr. Marshall Lamb, from the National Peanut Research Lab, spoke to growers about the 2023 peanut market outlook.
Several door prizes were given out throughout the morning of the trade show, but the prizes everyone was most looking forward to winning were announced at lunch.
The Grand Door Prize, provided by Kelley Manufacturing Co., of a $5,000 voucher that can be used toward $5,000 off the price of any one piece of equipment or for $5,000 worth of parts for KMC equipment, was won by Mark Nolin of Graceville, Florida.
Thomas Kirkland of Headland, Alabama, won a free trip to the 2023 Southern Peanut Growers Conference in July. Andy Robinson of Williston, Florida, won a Benelli 12-gauge shotgun.
Georgia Peanut Farm Show Honors Farmers And Key Leaders
The 46th annual Georgia Peanut Farm Show and Conference was held at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Conference Center in Tifton, Georgia, in January and attracted more than 1,000 peanut farmers. The show was sponsored by the Georgia Peanut Commission.
The GPC installed the seventh recipient into the Georgia Peanut Hall of Fame by inducting Sonny Perdue, chancellor of the University System of Georgia. A portrait of Perdue will be displayed at the GPC headquarters in Tifton, Ga. Prior to becoming chancellor, Perdue was the 31st Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2017 to 2021. He also served two terms as the governor of Georgia, from 2003 to 2011, and was a member of the Georgia Senate from 1991 to 2001, where he chaired the Senate Higher Education Committee and eventually became Senate President Pro Tem.
The GPC presented awards to individuals and businesses for their service to the peanut industry and promotion of peanuts across the United States. The award recipients include Distinguished Service Award – Gary Black, former Georgia Agriculture Commissioner; Research and Education Award – Calvin Perry, retired superintendent of the University of Georgia’s C.M. Stripling Irrigation Research Park; the University of Georgia Peanut Team; Innovator Award – William D. Branch, peanut breeder at the University of Georgia; Promotion Award – Bob Parker, president of the National Peanut Board; Media Award – Peanut Farm Market News; and the Georgia Peanut Special Award – Darlene Cowart, vice president of Food Safety and Quality with Birdsong Peanuts.
The Outstanding Georgia Young Peanut Farmer Award, sponsored by the GPC and BASF, was presented to Adam Curles of Camilla, Georgia.
The GPC and Agri Supply presented the Outstanding Georgia Peanut Farmers of the Year Award to farmers in five districts. Winners include District 1 – St. Elmo Harrison, Whigham; District 2 – Armond Morris, Tifton; District 3 – Lamar Black, Millen; District 4 – Barry Martin, Hawkinsville; and District 5 – Jack Miller, Leslie. These farmers received a sign to display at their farm and gift cards from Agri Supply and the Georgia Peanut Commission.
The presentation of the Grand Door Prize donated by Kelley Manufacturing Co. was presented to Cole Godowns of Louisville, Georgia. Godowns received one season’s use of a new KMC peanut combine and the option of purchasing the combine from a KMC dealer with $15,000 off the list price at the end of the 2023 season, as well as a cash prize.
Amadas Industries provided the Grower Door Prize to Austin Griffin of Ocilla, Georgia, and Gary Paulk of Wray, Georgia. Griffin received a customized Grizzly cooler and a certificate toward the purchase of a new Amadas self-propelled peanut combine, pull-type peanut combine, peanut digger or peanut dump cart. Paulk received a customized Grizzly cooler and a certificate for Amadas parts.