News Briefs: November 2023

Farm Bill vote unlikely until appropriations finalized. Food bloggers, culinary educators tour Alabama farms, processing. New leaders at APC’s Sustainability Initiative, Virginia Peanut Growers Association and South Carolina Peanut Board. APC works to link Japanese baseball with roasted peanuts. Peanut Institute: Study links peanuts with improved memory, reduced stress response.

Farm Bill Extension Likely

During a recent visit to Washington D.C., representatives from the U.S. Peanut Federation met with key members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, as well as senior agricultural staff, to discuss issues facing the peanut industry. The USPF discussed the rising costs of production for peanuts, the Price Loss Coverage program and priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill.

Authorization for Farm Bill programs expired Sept. 30. U.S. House and Senate Agriculture Committees are busy drafting Farm Bill language; however, it is unlikely that there will be any movement until after the appropriations process is finished. Congress narrowly avoided a government shutdown by passing a 45-day extension, which means they still must pass all 12 appropriations bills in order to avoid another shutdown. The U.S. House Appropriations Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration legislation failed to pass at the end of September in a 191to 237 vote.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the 2023 Farm Bill could be the first trillion-dollar bill with expected outlays of $1.51 trillion over 10 years. This is a $31.5 billion increase over the CBO’s February baseline estimate. Of this $1.51 trillion, 81.1% is for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, while the remaining 18.9% is split between crop insurance, commodity programs, conservation and other programs. Commodity and related programs are expected to cost $68.6 billion, or 4.5% of total spending.

The top issues for Title I of the 2023 Farm Bill are likely to be PLC reference prices, marketing loan rates, payment limits and base acres. The house and senate ag committees are both considering solutions to update base acres across commodities. Recently, the National Corn Growers Association released their position supporting a one-time, nationwide mandatory base acre update as determined by recent planting history. However, it is thought that a mandatory update would have negative effects for most commodities, including peanuts, that would lose base acres across the nation.

USPF representatives testified at Farm Bill hearings earlier this year, saying their No. 1 priority is an increase in reference prices. USPF also supports a voluntary base update.

U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman G.T. Thompson is waiting for congressional leadership to allot floor time for the Farm Bill before he brings legislation out of committee.

Alabama Hosts Farm-To-Table Tour

A group of Alabama culinary educators and a food blogger joined the Alabama Peanut Producers Association for the Alabama Farm to Table Peanut Harvest Tour Sept. 24-26, 2023. The goal of the tour is to educate participants so they can use their platform to share their newfound knowledge. The three-day immersive experience included building relationships with peanut farmers, learning about technology and research and hearing from industry professionals.

The tour began at the Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center in Fairhope, Alabama. Researchers shared their insight into ongoing peanut variety trials, other production issues farmers face and how to tell if a peanut is ready to harvest.  The group traveled to Sirmon Farms in Daphne, Alabama, and APPA board member Joel Sirmon led the tour on his five-generation family farm. He demonstrated peanut digging. Darrin Driskell, also an APPA board member, hosted the tour on his farm in Grand Bay, Alabama. Driskell Farms grows a wide variety of commodities, including peanuts, sod, cattle and cotton.

The trip ended with a tour of Coastal Growers, LLC, in Atmore, Alabama, where the group learned about the peanut shelling process.

Brooke Burks, a food blogger from Grady, Alabama, said it best, “I had no idea the time and dedication it takes to make sure that the crop is sustainable, not just next year but for my kids and my grandkids.”

Katherine Helms Leads South Carolina Peanut Board

Katherine Helms, a graduate of Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science degree in agribusiness, will serve as the new executive director of the South Carolina Peanut Board.

She has been with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture for the past five years including serving as executive director of cotton, tobacco, pork and now peanuts. For the past three years, she has worked with the commodity boards in South Carolina plus served as utility marketing specialist with all segments of the marketing department at the SCDA.

While attending Clemson, she worked for two years with the agribusiness program team involved in economic research projects and enterprise budgets.

Study Finds Peanuts Improve Memory

Research from the University of Barcelona on microbiota in the gut has found that daily consumption of peanuts and peanut butter can produce compounds that help improve memory and reduce stress response, including anxiety and depression, in healthy young adults. Findings from the Aristotle study were published online in the Journal of Functional Foods this past September and have been shared by The Peanut Institute.

The study explored what is known as the gut-brain axis, a relatively new area of research that examines the biochemical communication between the two areas. Researchers used a novel method to identify phenolic compounds derived from digesting peanuts and peanut butter and to show how those compounds promote better brain health.

When compared to the control group, researchers found that those who consumed peanuts and peanut butter had higher levels of microbial phenolic metabolites, which are compounds that can cross the blood-brain barrier and reach brain cells to protect them. Earlier results from the trial showed participants who consumed peanuts and peanut butter experienced an improvement in memory and stress response, largely due to polyphenols in peanuts.

APC Names New Sustainability Director

Allie Randell

The American Peanut Council recently announced that Allison (Allie) Randell has joined the organization as director of sustainability. She will oversee APC’s Sustainable U.S. Peanuts Initiative, an industry-wide and industry-fueled data-collection platform that helps growers tell their sustainability story.

Randell comes to APC from Premium Peanut where she was a grower liaison. In this role she led enrollment of more than 100 growers in the Sustainable U.S. Peanuts Initiative, while also delivering training and support for the 2021-2022 crop years. Also, while at Premium, Randell provided agronomic support to growers regarding crop health, maturity and other management practices, while maintaining relationships with grower-owners, buying point managers, crop consultants and other key industry stakeholders. Prior to this, Randell was a graduate research assistant at the University of Georgia and has held intern-level positions at Syngenta Crop Protection and Holder Ag Consulting. Randell holds the Certified Crop Advisor designation.   

Randell has a Master of Plant Protection and Pest Management from the University of Georgia and a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia. 

“Allie’s in-depth understanding of peanut crop production and her experience with Sustainable U.S. Peanuts will take the program to the next level of effectiveness,” said APC President and CEO Richard Owen. “Her ability to work well with growers as we continue to build the program and increase grower participation will be a huge asset for APC.”

Randell will be based in Douglas, Georgia.

Peanuts At Japanese Baseball Game

The American Peanut Council has been working with the Wall Street Journal since July on an article about APC’s trade promotion work in Japan, specifically related to promoting U.S. peanuts at Japanese baseball games. The result was a human-interest feature that was published on the front of the WSJ for its Sept. 30 edition.

While peanuts are synonymous with American baseball, this connection is still being forged in Japan. To help build awareness of U.S. peanuts and tie them with the game in the eyes of Japanese consumers, APC has hosted “American Peanut Day” for the past two years at Softbank Hawks versus Nippon Ham Fighters games. During the game, fans received American peanuts and took part in peanut-themed activities. On-field presentations and an APC first pitch were also part of the programming.

Japan is a consistently growing market for U.S. peanuts and peanut products. In 2022, the peanut industry exported a record-high 20,171 metric tons to Japan, with a value of $35.6 million.

About the article, APC officials said, “We are excited that the Wall Street Journal sees the value of APC’s export promotion work and decided to run with the story.”

According to the article, one hurdle to entering this market is that Japanese consumers are not comfortable with littering.

Caitlin Joyner To Lead Virginia Peanut Growers Association

In September, the Virginia Peanut Growers Association announced that Caitlin Joyner of Suffolk was selected as the new executive secretary and would also serve as the program director for the Virginia Peanut Board beginning. Joyner began in October and will work with Dell Cotton until he retires from these positions Jan. 31, 2024, at which time he will remain an employee of the Peanut Growers Cooperative Marketing Association and Direct Marketing Association he currently operates.

Joyner earned a Bachelor of Science degree in crop and soil science-agronomy from Virginia Tech. Most recently, she was the agriculture teacher and FFA advisor for King’s Fork and Nansemond River High Schools in Suffolk. Joyner resides with her husband Daniel and young son in the Holland area.

President Carter Celebrates His 99th Birthday

Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States, celebrates his 99th birthday on Oct. 1. A former peanut farmer, buying point operator, warehouseman and seed sheller, Carter often proclaims, “If you want to live a long and healthy life like me, eat more peanuts!” Carter helped organize the Southern Peanut Warehouseman’s Association, now called the National Peanut Buying Points Association, and served as its second president.

In addition to his lifelong support of the peanut industry, Carter continues to devote his life to supporting human rights and public health. He and wife Rosalynn founded The Carter Center in 1982 to help advance peace and health worldwide. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his humanitarian efforts, he has had, by many accounts, the most extraordinary post-presidential career in American history.

The peanut industry is grateful for President Carter’s enduring support of the peanut industry and wishes him a very happy birthday.

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