November 23, 2012 11:12:04 AM
Jeff Clark - [email protected]
Peanut butter is a staple food item for many Lowndes County residents. And if your favorite brand is Jif, there's a good chance your peanut butter may have ties to Monroe County.
Peanut farming is a big business for Don Self of Hamilton.
"We planted 646 acres of peanuts in Hamilton this year," Self said. "We started planting them May 2. We started combining them Sept. 22 and we finished Nov. 20. A good peanut crop means you are getting about 4,000 pounds to an acre. We actually had some farms that were getting about 6,500 pounds to an acre. This wasn't the average, but it was still a blessing from the Lord."
Self, who represents the state on the National Peanut Board, said he began farming peanuts with his father in 2007.
"We started farming peanuts because we were starving to death growing cotton," Self said. "Peanuts revitalized farming in Hamilton."
With an estimated 3.2 million tons of peanuts expected to be processed in the U.S. this year, Self said they are selling for approximately $750 a ton. But the boom could bring about a bust next season.
"We predict peanuts will be about $355 a ton next year, but we have no way of knowing for certain," Self said. "There was such a boom this year, we think the trend will definitely go down next year. We're going to grow peanuts next year but we don't know how many acres. Congress still doesn't have a farm bill so we are in limbo."
Brian Atkins, General Manger of Birdsong Peanuts in Monroe County, certainly hopes to see peanuts trending upwards for another season.
"We have set another state record for production this year," Atkins said of his company, which processes peanuts from Hamilton and all over Mississippi and then ships them to companies such as the J.M. Smucker Co., the owner of the Jif peanut butter brand. "We have had an above-average yield. We are on track to process right at 30,000 tons. We had only predicted to do about 20,000. We have about 4,000-to-5,000 acres left to process and we hope to complete this next week."