Local grower: Peanut acreage down, but prices high

Argen Duncan

Peanut acreage in the Portales valley is down, but prices are high, a local grower has said.

The Portales valley stretches from Floyd to Arch.

Roosevelt County peanut farmer Wayne Baker said contracts for peanuts are offering $950 per ton for conventional peanuts and $1,400 per ton for organic peanuts, although farmers don’t plant the crop until May. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if the price went a little higher.

“This is great,” Baker said.

He remembers one or two past years in which farmers received $1,000 per ton for peanuts, but the usual amount is around $600.

Peanut acreage has decreased in the past 30 years, but Baker expects to see an increase in the future.

Baker said in the 1980s and earlier, more than 100 farmers grew the crop in this area. Then, the water ran too low, the ground became infested with peanut diseases and the federal Farm Bill no longer offered support for the crop.

“When we lost those programs and other crops were more profitable to grow, growers started growing other things,” Baker said.

Dairies also arrived in the area and bought land with water rights. Many farmers began growing corn and forage to feed the dairy cattle, he said.

Now, with high corn and forage prices, it’s hard for farmers to get contracts to grow feed for dairies, Baker said. Still, he said cotton prices are high and many growers’ peanut equipment is out of date, so they’re more likely to grow cotton.

However, if a farmer has good land and water, peanuts are profitable, Baker said.

Baker estimated the county has seven or eight conventional peanut farmers and even more organic growers. Most of the organic peanut farmers are south of Dora and near the Texas border.

Many farmers grow organic peanuts because of the better price, Baker said. Also, land being converted from grass in the area is good for organic peanuts, since it has few weeds or peanut diseases.

If cotton prices drop, Baker said, farmers may grow peanuts.

“Whatever goes up usually comes down,” he said.