Sky-High Peanut Prices a ‘Lucky Deal' for Arkansas Planters

by Kate Knable  on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012 12:00 am  

Peanut Futures

That doesn’t mean, however, that peanuts are going away.

“I think they will compete well with cotton and rice,” said Jeremy Baltz, who owns Ag Headquarters Peanuts in Pocahontas (Randolph County). “And for our area, probably do better than soybeans and corn, on average.”

Further, two companies invested this year in constructing peanut-buying points, which are structures used for drying and storing peanuts.

“Establishing a buying point really says to the grower that they’re in it for the long haul,” said Faske, who works for the Cooperative Extension Service.

Baltz’s company built a 67,000-SF warehouse in Pocahontas for use by Clint Williams Co.,and Birdsong Peanuts constructed a peanut-buying point in Portia (Lawrence County).

“They’ll be in Arkansas long-term,” Baltz said of Clint Williams. “They are recovering short-term [in Texas]. They cannot irrigate as many peanuts in that area as Clint Williams needs to buy.”

Birdsong representatives declined to be interviewed for this story, but Lawrence County farmer Greg Gill said Birdsong’s new facility was a $10.4 million investment.

“I think Birdsong wouldn’t have spent over $10 million here if they didn’t see a good future here,” Gill said. “We hope that Birdsong puts in a shelling plant.”

Gill plans to increase his peanut acreage from 1,500 in 2012 to 2,500 in 2013.

“All markets are cyclical. They go up; they go down. Eventually, you have to find some middle ground somewhere,” Gill said. “When you farm, you have to be an optimist. I’m being an optimist. … If you farm, you’ve got to take a chance on something. One way or the other, you’re dependent on the market and the weather, regardless of which crop you choose to grow.”

Last year, when peanut prices were sky-high, L.J. Bryant, director of economic development for the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, thought the legume could make Lawrence County “the mini Stuttgart of Arkansas.” And he still thinks so.

Lawrence County leaders are talking with a peanut butter producer about relocating to the area, and they hope for continued expansion of the existing peanut operations, he said.

“Now that they’ve invested that kind of money, there’s no going back,” Bryant said of Birdsong. “All commodity prices are going to move around. … You don’t see folks making this investment for fun. They’re not making random business decisions where they won’t make money.”



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