News Briefs

 
 
In Brief:
 

• President Obama selects Iowa governor as Sec. of Ag.

• Export market makes best showing since 1995-1996.

• Industry task force to contact state and federal agencies regarding availability of peanuts.

• New research on allergies may sway governments to change feeding recommendations.

• New Mexico Dept. of Ag recog-nizes Sunland Peanuts as outstanding marketer.

• APC Consultant assists charity in Haiti that uses peanut-based RUFTs for malnourished children.

• Texas Peanut Board teams up with food bank network to get peanuts and peanut butter to needy Texans.

• Consult the Calendar of Events for upcoming meetings.

   

Vilsack Designee For Secretary Of Ag
Tom Vilsack, 58, is President Barack Obama’s designee as Secretary of Agriculture. Vilsack served as the governor of Iowa from 1999 until 2006 and was a promoter of value-added agriculture such as ethanol from agricultural products plus biotech seeds to expand yields and production in corn and soybeans. He advocated agri-tourism as a way to keep the state from losing youth that cannot easily get back into farming.

The Obama cabinet will have other agricultural leaders, including former Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado who served on the Agriculture Committee and has been nominated as Interior Secretary. Health and Human Resources nominee Tom Dashchle is a seasoned agricultural leader, as well as Ray LaHood, nominee for Transportation Secretary from rural Illinois.

No Farm Bill is expected during the next four years, but minor changes are often implemented if the legislation fails. Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, will continue as chairman of the Agriculture Committee. He worked closely with Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, but Republicans have not made their choice public. In the House, Collin Peterson, D-Minn., will continue as Ag Committee Chairman. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., has been replaced by Frank Lucas, R-Okla.


Exports Continue To Increase
USDA estimates that total 2007/2008 peanut exports reached 750 million pounds, which means more than one in five pounds of 2007 production were exported. This is the highest volume exported since 1995/96.

From January through September 2008, 239,000 metric tons of peanuts and products valued at $262 million were exported, up 41 percent for the 9-month period. This includes peanut kernels, inshells and prepared or preserved products, including peanut butter.


APC Organizes To Help Move Surplus
In a unanimous vote from all segments of the industry, the American Peanut Council was given the mission of organizing a task force that will inform state and federal government agencies regarding the use and availability of peanuts and peanut products.

The purpose of the task force is to facilitate increased demand for peanuts and peanut products by investigating state and federal government programs and educating APC members on potential opportunities.

Officials say the peanut industry recognizes the seriousness of current economic conditions and the continuing battle against hunger both at home and abroad. With a record 2.5 million ton peanut crop in 2008, the industry is in a unique position to assist government efforts to feed the hungry with a low cost, nutritional commodity.

Task Force Members are as follows: representing growers, Bob Sutter, Armond Morris and Robbie Blount; representing manufacturers, Charles Ivey, Bill Brown and Janice Bryson; representing shelling, Bob Parker, George Birdsong and Joe West; and representing the allied segment, Darlene Cowart.


UK, Aus. Feeding Guidelines May Change
The Australian and British governments are considering changes to their current infant feeding recommendations. The changes would modify current recommendations of when infants should be fed solid foods, including foods that are considered to be allergenic.

Current recommendations advise mothers to avoid eating peanuts during pregnancy, breastfeeding and children under the age of three to minimize potential for their child to develop a food allergy. But recent publications, including the National Peanut Board (NPB) funded study by Dr. Gideon Lack researching peanut allergy prevalence among children in the UK compared to children in Israel, challenged these recommendations.

In December, The Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) published the following, “There is insufficient evidence to support previous advice to specifically delay or avoid potentially allergenic foods (such as egg, peanuts, nuts, wheat, cow’s milk and fish) for the prevention of food allergy or eczema. This also applies to infants with siblings who already have allergies to these foods.”

The UK Food Standard Agency Board has advised the government to revise the current infant feeding recommendations in light of new findings.


Sunland Peanut Receives Award
The New Mexico Department of Agriculture recently selected Sunland Peanut, Inc., of Portales, New Mexico, as the 2008 New Mexico Agriculture Marketer.

Sunland Peanut, Inc., in operation since 1988, is the largest peanut processor in New Mexico and operates the only peanut butter plant in the state. In addition, Sunland Peanut is the largest producer of organic peanut butter in the country.

“This award is a tribute to the growers, production staff and sales team at Sunland Peanut, Inc.,” says Jimmie Shearer, president and CEO. “Since Sunland Peanut was formed by a group of dedicated peanut farmers in eastern New Mexico, our mission to grow and market the naturally sweet Valencia peanut has not changed,” added Shearer.

Almost 90 percent of the Valencia peanuts produced in the United States are grown within 120 miles of Portales in Roosevelt and Lea counties. Annual production was over 35 million pounds in 2007.


APC Consultant Assists Charity In Haiti
Steve Calhoun, technical consultant to the American Peanut Council, visited Meds and Food for Kids (MFK), a small charitable organization in Cap Haitian, Haiti last November. Calhoun was there to assist the staff at MFK in preparing for an international food safety and quality audit. Passing the audit will allow MFK to produce additional peanut-based ready-to-use theraputic food (RUTF) to sell to charities all over Haiti and guarantee their success.

Calhoun says he was impressed with the people at MFK, but shocked by the poverty in Haiti, the poorest country in this hemisphere. Peanut-based RUTF is fed to malnourished kids and is wildly successful in returning them to health.

Peanuts used in the production are local and supplemented by donations from Golden Peanut Company, Birdsong Peanuts, Clint Williams Company and American Peanut Growers Group. U.S. manufacturers Lance and Peanut Corp. of America have been donating, processing and delivering peanut paste to the facility in Haiti.


Texas Producers Start Donation Program
Over one million people go hungry in Texas every year. The Texas Peanut Producers Board is teaming with the Texas Food Bank network, backed by the Texas Department of Agriculture, to give peanuts and peanut butter to the needy.

The Texas Food Bank network serves 3,600 charitable partners, including faith-based and community non-profit organizations. Texas peanut farmers are asked to consider setting aside a portion of a field as a commitment to support needy Texans.

The donated peanuts will be tracked as a poundage obligation and will be allocated for Texas PALS peanut butter production. The peanut butter will be distributed to Texas Food Banks and hunger-relief agencies across Texas. No problem with making peanut butter, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints offered free use of its peanut butter cannery in Houston, Texas, to produce the jars of peanut butter.

Already shellers and the Texas Peanut Board have donated loads of peanuts.

For more information, contact the Texas Peanut Producers Board at 806-687-6363 or go to their Web site at www.texaspeanutboard.com.