Harvest yields cut for Virginia peanuts

Published 3:20 pm Thursday, November 19, 2015

After a record 2014 harvest, Virginia peanut growers anticipate a 10 percent smaller harvest this year, at 76 million pounds.

According to the Virginia Farm Bureau, yields are expected to drop 450 pounds per acre from last year, when they hit a record high of 4,450 pounds an acre, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We had the largest per-acre yield for any state in the country last year,” said Spencer Neale, vice president of commodity marketing for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

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“It’s unfortunate that wet weather at the end of the growing season affected yields.”

Decades ago peanuts were raised on 75,000 acres in the Old Dominion, but this year they were planted on only 19,000 acres. The high cost of specialized equipment is a factor inhibiting significant growth for Virginia’s peanut industry, Neale said.

“We also have a lot of competing crops like cotton and soybeans” in the part of Southeast Virginia where peanuts are grown, he said. A high-value crop, peanuts are raised in only eight Virginia localities yet generated $22.2 million in farm receipts in 2014, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

A Nov. 1 NASS report estimates that yields from other Virginia field crops also will decline from last year.

Virginia’s corn production accounts for less than 1 percent of the national crop, but it is an important livestock feed for many producers. NASS estimates this year’s Virginia corn harvest will total 49.6 million bushels, down 2 percent from a year ago. Soybean production in Virginia is down 9 percent from 2014 at 22.9 million bushels.

The Virginia cotton harvest is expected to yield 150,000 bales, down 21 percent from last month’s estimate and 32 percent lower than last year.

Heavy rains at the end of September and the beginning of October reduced yields dramatically, said Jonah Bowles, VFBF senior agriculture market analyst.

“There are producers who insure their prices during the spring, regardless of where they are and what the market is doing,” Bowles said.

“They’re not hurt as much as those who didn’t. So if they get their target price for a profit, they’re good. Those producers who have not marketed ahead are the ones who get hurt.”