Peanut producers take a punch

By Chris Vessell bio | email

AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - The peanut industry is still trying to recover after cases of salmonella were linked to a manufacturer in Blakely, Georgia last month. With planting time just weeks away, farmers are already doing the calculations, but the figures just don't add up in their favor.

"This year we'll plant probably less peanuts than we typically did last year," said Mitch Lazenby, a peanut farmer. A decrease in demand has prompted manufacturers to buy less peanuts from farmers. That's partly due to a surplus of peanuts from last year's crop, but farmer's say there's no doubt that consumers are buying less peanut products.

"Right now the price is pretty stable. Tragically, we've had this salmonella outbreak. We lost a little bit of support, but I think it will bounce back," Lazenby said. He usually grows more than 2 to 3 hundred acres of peanuts each year, but this year it will be considerably less.

"We need a crop that can maintain itself in drought like conditions because we can get into those sometimes. So peanuts do good, do really well on our soil," he says. Consumer confidence has dwindled since last month's salmonella cases that were linked to a Georgia product manufacturer.

Lazenby says the manufacturer's alleged mismanagement doesn't just concern consumers. "Not only does it affect the consumer, it affects the farmer as well so it would behoove us to do a good job as we want to get them a safe product. And in return we just want a fair price for it," Lazenby said.

The peanut industry is a major cash crop for the state. The amount of peanuts grown in Alabama last year is equivalent to more than 72,000 football fields.