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Oklahoma peanut farmers grow a high-demand crop The Power of Peanuts


By Gail Banzet


aseball season is under way, and for many fans that means relaxing days spent at the ballpark with a hot dog and a bag of roasted peanuts. As one of the state’s many well-kept se- crets, Oklahoma’s peanut producers currently are planting this year’s crop, which will eventually end up in a tasty jar of peanut butter or a heart-healthy snack food.


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More than 150 farmers grow peanuts every year in about 20 different Oklahoma counties. According to Mike Kubicek, Oklahoma Peanut Commission execu- tive secretary, peanuts migrated to the middle of the


country before Oklahoma statehood. The largest acre- age ever planted in Oklahoma, 325,000 acres, took place in 1947 when the U.S. War Department asked farmers to help out the war effort by growing peanuts. “On the home front, peanut butter became a main- stay in the family’s cupboard because it was a very inexpensive way to add protein to the diet,” Kubicek said.


Since that era, he said, the number of acres plant- ed to peanuts has fl uctuated, especially after major changes to the peanut program in the 2002 Farm Bill. The quota system farmers had previously used to de-


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termine the amount of peanuts to plant was elimi- nated. As a result, it effectively reduced by half the price paid to producers, causing a drastic reduction of peanut acreage in Oklahoma. “About 20,000 acres of peanuts were grown in Okla-


homa in 2010,” Kubicek said. “But we anticipate a 10 to 15 percent increase this coming year.” The executive secretary said there are a couple of reasons why peanut acreage is expected to be higher in 2011. First of all, peanut farmers in the Southeast region of the country struggled with their crop last year, creating the threat of a nationwide shortage.


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