Peanut producers gather for meeting

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer

Responding to the recent samonella outbreak that occurred in February, a National Peanut Board representative was on hand to help reassure peanut producers that peanut butter is continuing to remain a staple in many households.

With the recent outbreak of salmonella poisoning found in peanut butter, peanuts have been a hot topic. Found to be an isolated incident, National Peanut Board representative Lisa Agostoni reassured those gathered at the meeting that consumers were not worried about the outbreak. She said consumers were merely switching brands until the situation is resolved.

“Peanut butter is still a staple, there has been no decrease in sales,” Agostoni said.
Discussion also centered on the many legislative and administrative issues that are facing peanut producers, as they gathered for the New Mexico Peanut Growers annual meeting on Thursday at the Memorial Building.

“The number of peanut farmers are dwindling, though peanuts are still an important crop for the area,” said local peanut farmer and moderator Wayne Baker.

Baker went on to state that in past years, there were about 90 producers in the area.

Today that number is down to 10 to 15 producers, he said. Though producers fewer, production remains high for the area. An estimated 50 million pounds of peanuts were graded and processed for this area during last years harvest, Baker said.

“The peanut industry is still very strong and important to Portales,” Baker said.

The National Peanut Board has been working with restaurants to promote the use of peanuts in cooking. Promoting the health benefits of peanuts is also an important topic. Peanuts are becoming known for being a good source of unsaturated fat, contain no cholesterol. Natural and commercial peanut butter also contain no traces of trans-fatty acids.

The board is also conducting research into peanut allergies, Agostoni said.

Comprised of peanut producers from across the United States, the National Peanut Board’s main focus is to promote U.S. grown peanuts and peanut research, said Richard Robbins, 2007 chairmen and local peanut farmer.

Also present at the meeting were researchers from New Mexico State University who provided members with updates on research methods and diseases.

The yearly meeting is held to bring peanut producers together to hear updates on what is happening in the industry, said Jimmy Shearer, president, CEO and owner of Sunland, Inc.