Exports move in and out at the Port of Savannah

2014_gpt_100sThe Port of Savannah is a major U. S. seaport located at Savannah, Georgia and also known as the Garden City Terminal. Its extensive facilities for oceangoing vessels line both sides of the Savannah River approximately 18 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Operated by the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), the Port of Savannah competes primarily with the Port of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina to the northeast, and the Port of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Florida to the south. The GPA operates one other Atlantic seaport in Georgia, the Port of Brunswick, located at Brunswick, Georgia, as well as two interior ports linked to the Gulf of Mexico, Port Bainbridge and Port Columbus.

Owned and operated by the Georgia Ports Authority, the Garden City Terminal is the fourth-busiest container port in the United States and provides access to 44 percent of U.S. consumers in 2-3 days. At 1,200 acres, it’s North America’s busiest single-terminal container facility. This allows for maximum efficiency and flexibility, concentrating all manpower, technology and equipment in one massive container operation.

2014_gpt_095sThe terminal includes two Class I railroads on-site that provides freight by train to boat without weight restrictions. Other ports without a rail system have weight restrictions when moving containers via truck. The rail system helps with moving 2,000 lbs. a thousand miles on a single gallon of fuel. The port also sees approximately 8,000 trucks in and out through the day.

The port has also invested in more than 2,800 refrigerated container spaces, with more on the way. The refrigerated space allows another known Georgia product, poultry, to be exported through Savannah. In fact, the Port of Savannah exports so much poultry that if Georgia was a country then the state would be the fourth largest poultry exporter in the world.

Here’s a quick video clip of cargo being unloaded from a container ship at the Port of Savannah.

View 2014 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

A growing opportunity in the export market

export peanut marketDuring lunch at the Bulloch County Extension office, tour attendees were able to learn more about the peanut export market from Stephanie Grunenfelder, vice president of international marketing with the American Peanut Council. According to Grunenfelder, inshell exports in 2013 were 82,000 MT, almost double those in 2012. She says the biggest export increases were to Europe. For the first half of 2014, exports have continued strong for the U.S., she says. While lower than last year, they are still way ahead of the five year average many traders say that will total almost as high as last year.

One of the U.S. key export markets is Japan. “Currently, the Japanese buy the majority of their peanuts from China, but we are trying to change that,” Grunenfelder says. “Japan prefers Virginia type peanuts. We are working very hard to get the duty on U.S. peanuts going into Japan dropped to zero under the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement currently being negotiated. If we are successful, we think we will suddenly start selling a lot more Virginia type peanuts to Japan which could be a real boost to the V-C peanut region.”

Currently the top five export markets for U.S. peanuts are the European Union, Canada, China, Mexico and Japan. Peanuts are exported in a variety of ways with the top export type being kernels followed by inshells, blanched, peanut butter and lastly prepared. When reviewing the last few years, Grunenfelder says, the export market has grown in the following areas:

$35.5 million in 2008
$82.3 million in 2013

$197.8 million in 2008
$415 million in 2013

Peanut Butter
$53.3 million in 2008
$152.9 million in 2013

Stephanie Grunenfelder, vice president of International Marketing with the American Peanut Council

Stephanie Grunenfelder, vice president of International Marketing with the American Peanut Council

According to reports so far in 2014, Grunenfelder says, the top markets for U.S. peanuts from January to June are the European Union, Canada, Mexico and Japan. Those countries total 88 percent of the total export market. So, what is happening with overall production and the export market? In addition to the American Peanut Council’s marketing efforts in other countries the forces of the world market have generated many changes in the peanut trade. Most countries produce and consume peanuts within their own country and only about 5 percent of the world’s volume is traded, unlike most commodities. China currently dominates world peanut production. However, China, Argentina, the U.S. and India compete for export markets around the world. In recent years, China’s economy has grown, and consumers there are eating more snacks and high value foods. Therefore, China consumes more of its own production and because of their size, drawing back exports affects everyone else, Grunenfelder says. The U.S. is best positioned to take up the slack, and has done so in many countries, including Africa. Pair this with growing middle class consumers in Africa, who are already familiar with peanuts as a snack, and you see why there are opportunities for exports, Grunenfelder adds.

The American Peanut Council manages an export promotion program on behalf of the industry, and utilizes funds from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Promotion Program, as well as the Foreign Market Development Program. These funds are used primarily to focus on the trade, and are targeted to key markets. To learn more, visit the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture website at: http://www.fas.usda.gov/.

View Stephanie Grunenfelder’s presentation

View the 2014 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

Once peanuts leave the farm

After finishing up the final field visit of the day, tour attendees were provided lunch by the Bulloch County Extension Office. During this stop, attendees received a presentation from Shawn Gaines with Golden Peanut Company.

Since tour attendees were unable to visit a shelling plant during the 2014 tour due to location, Shawn Gaines began the presentations by providing a basic overview of the peanut shelling process. Gaines discussed what happens to peanuts from start to finish: buying point receipt to when peanuts are sold to the manufacturer. Gaines also provided an overview of Golden Peanut Company and discussed how Golden is committed to enhancing and maintaining quality. He mentioned how Golden Peanut Company is a leading sheller and processor of peanuts and peanut products. Their primary product lines include raw, shelled and in-shell peanuts, peanut flowers, peanut extracts, roasted aromatic and refined various peanut oils, as well as peanut seed. Golden serves peanut growers and operates plants in all major peanut-growing areas of the United States and Argentina. Their mission statement is to continually improve: themselves, their services, their processes and their products to meet customer needs.

View the 2014 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album.

Cromley brothers try hand at high oleic peanuts


Charlie and Lee Cromley in their field of Georgia 09B high oleic peanuts in Brooklet, Ga.

Georgia Peanut Tour attendees visited the farm of Lee and Charlie Cromley in Brooklet, Georgia. Brooklet is a small town but it is known for the town’s annual peanut festival held in August. The event draws thousands of tourists each year to the small town. Visit the Brooklet Peanut Festival website to learn more about the event.

The Cromley’s farm just outside of town and grow 2,200 acres of cotton and 400 acres of peanuts. In the 300 acre field the tour group visited, the Cromley’s had planted the Georgia 06G and Georgia 09B varieties. The peanuts were planted the first week of May. The field has been very dry in August but over the last 10 days they have had 8-inches of rain which is preventing them from being able to get in the field and dig the peanuts. They are very innovative and on the cutting edge and they are looking for things to do better to improve yield.

The Georgia 09B is a high oleic variety where farmers are paid premiums to plant from several candy manufacturers that want more high oleic peanuts grown. However, less than 10 percent of the peanuts grown in Georgia are high oleic. One of the advantages of high oleic peanuts is the longer shelf life.

Lee Cromley says, is seems like more farmers should be growing a high oleic variety since it has several advantages. However, he says they have struggled with yield on the high oleic peanuts. “We planted another high oleic variety, Georgia 02C, a few years ago and that is a tough variety to manage from growth and maturity standpoint.” Cromley says. “Now, we have more varieties that are easier to manage and the yield is getting better. Even though yield drag is still 400 to 500 lbs. behind other non-high oleic peanuts. However, with the premium paid we feel like we will be fine with the reduced yield.”

Several companies like Hershey’s would like high oleic peanuts. However, it all comes down to the economics for growers.

“The market place is not built yet to accept high oleic and a grower wants to grow what yields and pays him back,” says Scott Monfort, University of Georgia peanut agronomist. “If everyone adopts high oleic peanuts right now then there would not be a premium offered and the premium is offered to offset the yield loss of those varieties. Without the premium that would negate the reason to grow high oleic peanut varieties today with reduced yield. We need to work on producing high oleic varieties that have the yield potential of Georgia 06G.”

View the 2014 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album.

A buying point 100 years old and going strong!

2014_gpt_053sAfter finishing up our field stop in Bulloch County, the Peanut Tour caravan continued on to the Birdsong Ogeechee Buying Point in Brooklet, Georgia. Birdsong Peanuts buys carefully selected peanuts directly from the farmers’ fields. Peanuts are then cleaned, shelled, sized and shipped to manufacturers who turn them into popular food items; from peanut butter to peanut M&Ms.

The Birdsong Ogeechee Buying Point is one of 85 of Birdsong’s buying points located throughout the peanut-growing belt comprised of 11 states extending from Virginia to New Mexico. At the buying points, Birdsong buys and stores farmers’ peanuts until they are ready for processing.

David Rushing, manager of the Ogeechee location welcomed attendees to the buying point by giving them a brief history on the location. He stated the Ogeechee location started in 1990 by a farm family in the area, and in January 2011, Birdsong Peanuts purchased it. The buying point receives peanuts from five nearby counties and employs three full-time employees, one part-time employee and up to 20 employees during harvest season. Due to weather conditions, they have not begun processing loads from the 2014 crop.

2014_gpt_076sDuring the visit, attendees had the opportunity to view Birdsong’s sampling process, grading room, drying facility and storage warehouse. The sampling process is the first step the peanuts go through when they arrive at the buying point. A pneumatic sampler, or gig, is used to sample the peanuts brought into the buying point in a peanut wagon. The sampler has a probe which is inserted into the wagon and pulls out approximately 1,800 grams or peanuts. A different probe pattern is used on each trailer to obtain samples from front to back of the trailer. This ensures an accurate sample is obtained. The sampling process can take up to 15 minutes to complete depending on foreign material content. During the busy time of harvest, this buying point samples approximately 150 loads per day.

Once the peanuts are sampled from the wagon, the sample is taken to the grading room for inspection, dried with large peanut driers where they are heated up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and then transferred to the storage facility. Before being placed in dry storage, the peanuts must have less than six percent foreign material and approximately 10 percent moisture. Once this is complete, they are stored in a warehouse before being used for manufacturing.

This year is special for Birdsong Peanuts as they are celebrating their 100 year anniversary! Kevin Calhoun with Birdsong gave attendees a little background information on Birdsong as a company. He said the company is a five generation, family-owned business. They take pride in their food safety programs, worker safety programs and quality control. If you eat products made with U.S.-grown peanuts, chances are you have consumed peanuts from Birdsong!

To go along with this stop, tour attendees had a special treat. Refreshments and grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were served to those who wanted a quick snack while at the buying point.

To view a video on peanut grading presented by Randall Taylor with Georgia Federal State Inspection Service, click the video below.

View the 2014 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album.

Sikes conducts on-farm research to control thrips


Pictured left to right: Bill Tyson, Bulloch County Extension agent, and Greg Sikes, farmer from Brooklet, Georgia.

The first field visit on the Georgia Peanut Tour is the farm of Greg Sikes in Bulloch County, Georgia. Sikes has been farming 16 years and grows 7,000 acres of cotton, peanuts, corn and soybeans. His grandfather and uncle farmed but Sikes has not farmed any of that land until two years ago. Sikes is a very innovative farmer, says Bill Tyson, Bulloch County Extension agent.

In 2014, Sikes planted Georgia 06G in a twin and single rows. The research tests use Thimet in-furrow on single rows and Imidacloprid in-furrow on twin rows to help with control of thrips. According to Sikes, planting in twin rows uses more expensive equipment but the twin rows help with controlling thrips and weeds. The peanuts were planted April 28 and the conditions at that time were pretty good. The peanuts have had a pretty good growing season as you can tell by the vines, Sikes says, except for a few weeks ago when the heat index reached 100 to 105 degrees every day.

According to Tyson, Sikes peanuts are ready to dig and normally he would be in the field digging but over the past week he has had about 8 inches of rain in this area. So, now we are looking for some sunshine. Tyson says, the tour should have come through this area about five weeks ago when farmers really needed rain and brought rain to us then. The peanuts are ready to be dug but we have to deal with what Mother Nature has given us.

2014_gpt_047sMark Abney, peanut entomologist at University of Georgia also visited with attendees during the tour about insect pressure especially Thrips. Thrips are a tiny little insect that affects peanuts and causes tomato spotted wilt virus. The TSWV would have devastated the peanut crop across the Southeast but many plant breeders developed TSVW resistant varieties. Thrips is the only way TSWV is spread. Thrips also suck on plant juices and stunt the plant the first four weeks of the plants life at the beginning of the season. For many years, farmers used Timek to control peanuts but EPA banned the product a few years ago.  So, now the industry is forced to figure out a new way to control thrips. Our goal is to help the grower and increase efficiency by making one trip through the field by applying insecticide at planting. We are not 100% in finding a solution but we are working towards that to help farmers.

View 2014 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

Peanuts have the power to lend a helping hand

To conclude the Hot Topics session, Dr. Bob Kemerait, extension plant pathologist at the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, spoke to tour attendees about the way technology and improved processes are being used to grow peanuts in other areas of the world. As a part of the peanut industry in Georgia, Kemerait believes Georgia peanut farmers have the opportunity to improve the lives of very deserving and hardworking people in developing countries of the tropics by helping to improve their peanut industry – from planting to processing, to value-added. According to Kemerait, areas Georgia farmers can extend technologies to underdeveloped countries include: improved varieties; improved pest management; improved use of fertilizers; improved understanding of harvest maturity; improved equipment for land preparation; improved equipment for harvest; improved equipment for shelling; and management of aflatoxin.

Even though it is important to extend the use of technology to those who need it most, Kemerait says it is important to be cautious. Care should be taken not to unrealistically raise expectations when cost and/or availability is questionable. Considerations for local markets (local preferences) and considerations of chemical use should be recognized, as well as consideration of how labor-saving devices could affect job opportunities – especially for women.

When participating in outreach to developing countries, careful coordination with in-country partners should be exercised and careful consideration for impact and unforeseen consequences should be done. Dr. Kemerait also believes it is important to provide education for growers, production guides as references and training for local leaders Without these things, the success of the country is unlikely.

Sequencing the peanut genome

Following the presentation from USAID, Dr. Peggy Ozias-Akins spoke with tour attendees about genomics. According to Ozias-Akins, genomics is the study of the structure and function of the total complement (DNA) of an organism. The genome sequence of the peanut plant’s progenitors is facilitating rapid discovery of molecular differences between cultivated peanut varieties. These differences are being tested for linkage to traits of importance to growers and industry. Discovering linkages will enable application of molecular tools to breeding in order to more rapidly combine traits of interest. As many folks know, the peanut-genome was released earlier this year. According to Ozias-Akins, the peanut is complicated genetically. This is due primarily to the fact it is a polyploid.

During her presentation, Dr. Ozias-Akins described DNA and how it works. DNA is strand of As, Ts, Cs and Gs. Each letter stands for a specific molecule or nucleotide that form strands. Each strand is a chromosome. The peanut has 40 chromosomes – 20 from each ancestor. There are over 2 billion molecules in the peanut genome. The process of understanding the genome sequence is extremely tedious and time-consuming. Technologies for sequencing has advanced over the last several years, and because of this, the cost to sequence is much less and more feasible to sequence crop genomes such as peanuts.

Dr. Ozias-Akins then went on to discuss molecular markers. She described what markers were and how they are important. The use of molecular markers as a substitute for phenotypic selection, aka marker-assisted breeding, requires that marker-phenotype associations be identified. These markers are potentially most useful for recessive traits, stacking genes for traits, quantitative traits and difficult phenotypes. The genome project is not just about generating sequence, but applying it in breeding.

Helping Others through the Peanut & Mycotoxin Innovation Lab

A special focus of the Hot Topics Seminar featured the Peanut & Mycotoxin Innovation Lab (PMIL) by James Rhoads, assistant director. The PMIL applies innovative science to improve peanut production and use, raise awareness on nutrition, and increase food safety in developing countries. Today there are 925 million people who suffer from chronic hunger and demand for food is projected to increase by 50 percent over the next 20 years. The response from the USAID is “Feed the Future” which includes food security innovation centers like PMIL through the legume productivity. You may wonder, “Why Peanuts?” Peanuts are highly nutritious, valuable as a legume in cereal systems, often a woman’s crop and drought tolerant. There are several components of PMIL’s research portfolio including improved peanut varieties, mycotoxin management, seed production, post-harvest handling and processing and market opportunities. Additional information on the components of PMIL is available in additional blog posts regarding genomics with Peggy Ozias-Akins and technologies with Bob Kemerait. Information is also available online at: http://pmil.caes.uga.edu.

View presentation: Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Peanut Productivity and Mycotoxin Control
View presentation: PMIL Efforts in Peanut Value Chain Research: Lessons and Opportunities from Experience in Haiti

Video from Georgia Farm Monitor on the Peanut & Mycotoxin Innovation Lab.



Farm Bill: As many questions as answers

Dr. Nathan Smith, extension economist with the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, provided an update on the 2014 Farm Bill during the Hot Topics session. His presentation’s goal was to give tour attendees more information about the Farm Bill, including new changes and ways it will affect peanuts. Included in his presentation was a summary of the new Farm Bill, particularly as it relates to peanuts. Smith stated we have had the same Farm Bill since 2008. This new program will repeal DCP and ACRE programs and eliminate direct payments and counter-cyclical payments. It also establishes new commodity programs for all covered commodities, excluding cotton. Price Loss Coverage (PLC), or price safety net and Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC), or revenue safety net will be options for farmers. This updated program establishes a new “shallow loss” insurance policy called supplemental coverage option (SCO), which will be available for commodities enrolled in PLC and non-STAX cotton. This will be available beginning in 2015.

Smith stated the marketing assistance loan did not change much. Peanut storage and handling cost pretty much stayed the same, as well.

Producers must make a choice for 2014 – an election between PLC, County ARC and individual (Farm) ARC. They have a one-time opportunity to relocate their base acres and update payment yields, which would be used on the PLC program. Farmers’ crop insurance decisions will be yield protection or revenue protection, as well as coverage level. Also, they will be deciding if they want to buy the SCO option if they choose PLC.

To give attendees an update for Georgia, Smith provided statistics on Georgia’s participation. According to Smith, Georgia had 2,983,213 base acres in 2009. This acreage was heavy in cotton and peanut base.

In reference to generic base, Smith stated cotton base becomes generic base in the new bill. Also, generic base does not change during the life of the Farm Bill. Generic base can be used on a year-to-year basis to temporary allocate to a covered commodity (excluding cotton) planted. He said it was important to note a covered commodity must be planted to be eligible for any generic base allocation.

Overall, program decisions for peanuts will be pretty straight forward for most cases. Other crops will be more complicated driven by price outlook. Options for reallocation base and updating yields will vary on a farm by farm, case by case basis because of dynamics of landowner and tenant relationships.