Peanut growers vote support for national board

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

Members of the New Mexico Peanut Growers Association at their meeting in Portales Wednesday approved a referendum supporting continuation of the National Peanut Board.

Leaders among New Mexico and west Texas peanut farmers have said the National Peanut Board, which is up for a reaffirmation vote in April, is important for their industry.

The board is operated and funded by American peanut farmers with oversight from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

All peanut growers around the country are eligible to vote on by mail on whether to continue the board’s existence, said Raffaela Marie Fenn, peanut board president and managing director.

“The National Peanut Board gives all of these small peanut farmers and their families opportunity to market their products, and share the wonderful nutritional benefits, versatility and great taste of the crop they grow with the nation and the world,” Fenn said. “In addition, by coming together, these 10,000 (American peanut) farmers collectively have put together a self-help program that allows them to spur research that helps ensure the sustainability of the crop and the rural communities of which they are an integral part.”

Gayle Walker, Portales peanut farmer and New Mexico representative to the National Peanut Board, said she serves to help promote peanuts in a venue she doesn’t have in Portales. The board also funds research important to the farmers, she said.

Fenn said the board is funded with 1 percent of the income from the first sale of all peanut crops in the nation.

Farmers see the organization’s value because consumption has been steadily increasing since its programs started in 2001, she said.

The board was established by national vote in 1999.

Because the USDA oversees the peanut board, said chairman Roger Neitsch of Seminole, Texas, the organization isn’t allowed to be involved in politics.

Neitsch said the board sends money to individual states to conduct peanut-production research specific to their needs.

“What’s good for New Mexico growers isn’t good for Georgia growers and vice versa; that’s why we did it that way,” Neitsch said of the research and funding.

However, he said all peanut promotion the board does helps all growers.

“Our goal is to increase consumption, which increases demand, which puts peanut farmers in a better marketing position,” Neitsch.

The National Peanut Board also addresses problematic issues such as peanut allergies and the recent discovery of salmonella in peanut butter from an individual processing plant.

The New Mexico Peanut Growers Association works with relevant legislation, which the national board can’t do, and promotes peanuts. Neitsch said the association works more directly with the needs of member growers than the national board.