Georgia is the number-one peanut-producing state in the country, accounting for approximately 45 percent of the crop's national acreage and production. In 2005 Georgia farmers harvested 755,000 acres of peanuts, the official state crop, for a yield of 2.2 billion pounds. The state's most famous peanut farmer, U.S. president Jimmy Carter, and his family raised the crop for decades in Sumter County.
Origin and Growing Conditions
The sandy soils and subtropical climate of Georgia are ideal for producing large yields of high-quality peanuts. Peanut production in Georgia is concentrated in the Coastal Plain, the area south of the fall line, which runs from Columbus through Macon to Augusta. Only a few counties in the southern half of the state, those in the southeastern corner near the Atlantic coast and the Okefenokee Swamp, do not grow peanuts.
Georgia peanuts require a long growing season of at least 150 days of warm weather. They also require about twenty-two inches of water during the growing season.
Peanut acreage in Georgia has varied greatly over the years. During and immediately following World War II (1941-45), farmers were encouraged to plant as many acres of peanuts as possible for oil production to support the war effort. During that time peanut acreage in Georgia exceeded 1 million acres.
Acreage in Georgia climbed steadily during the 1980s and early 1990s, peaking at 900,000 acres in 1991. Because of lower yields from poor rotation conditions, farmers began reducing peanut acreage to improve yield potential. In the late 1990s and early 2000s acreage dropped into the 500,000 to 550,000 range. The quota program was dropped in the federal 2002 Farm Act, and a market loan program for the peanut was established. This program created the potential for peanut production in areas that had not historically grown peanuts because of previous restrictions. As a result, peanut acreage climbed to 620,000 acres in 2004 and 755,000 acres in 2005.
The Peanut Industry
All segments of the peanut industry, including grower, buyer, sheller, broker, manufacturer, and such allied industries as storage and transportation, are represented in Georgia. Numerous other industries support the peanut industry in the state, including equipment manufacturers, banking and other financial industries, and the agricultural chemical and fertilizer industries.
Georgia Agricultural Facts (Athens: University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Georgia Crop Reporting Service, annual).
Smith, Andrew F., Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002).
John P. Beasley Jr., University of Georgia
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