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Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 2:00am

Georgia Peanut Harvest Smashes Records

With Georgia’s iconic peanut harvest about halfway through, farmers are expecting to break all standing records.

“What we’ve got is new peanut varieties that have so much better yield, that what we’ve been doing is setting record yields anyway," said Don Koehler, executive director of the Georgia Peanut Commission.

"And when we combine record yields with a significant increase in acreage, this is going to be the biggest we’ve ever had," he said.

2011 was called the worst peanut crop in 30 years, so with demand and prices sky high, it was no surprise when farmers planted extra acres at the beginning of this season.

What did surprise farmers was just how well peanuts grew this year, ever through drought.

Overall production last peaked in 2008 at 1.16 million tons; the estimate for this year is 1.41 million. 2009 set the record for per-acre yield with 3,560 lbs per acre; this year University of Georgia extension economist Nathan Smith thinks farmers could hit 4,000.

But, Smith says, the combination of extra acres dedicated to peanuts and higher yields could actually mean bad news for some farmers. Only about half of the peanuts sold “on contract” when prices were high, and farmers could lock in a figure.

“Although we’re looking at, you know, yields that are going to probably strain our capacity to handle all the peanuts this year, the low price for those peanuts that were un-contracted, those prices right now are looking like they’ll be below what cost of production is,” he said.

Smith says farmers won’t be fooled twice—look for more acres of corn in the fields and pricier peanut butter on the shelves next year.