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dfp-ronsmith-consruction.jpg Ron Smith
Peanuts unloading last fall at the Delta Peanut facility in Jonesboro, Ark. The member-owned shelling plant is expected to be completed by June.

Delta Peanut expecting 25% production jump

Jonesboro, Ark., peanut shelling plant nears completion.

Delta Peanut expects 25% more peanuts from their members in 2020 and expect the new shelling plant to be up and running by June 1.

"I remind myself that building a business is a process and not an event," says Delta Peanut CEO Tommy Jumper. "Sometimes it feels like we’ve been at this a long time but, barely a year ago, Delta Peanut was born as a company in Jonesboro, Ark."

Jumper says the 100% farmer-owned peanut shelling facility is "well on its way. About 80% of the equipment is installed. Motor control panels are set, and miles of wire have been pulled."

Construction moving quickly

He says the shelling plant equipment is "mostly in place and construction of the building ‘over’ the shelling equipment has begun."

Board member Jason Felton, who grows peanuts in Marianna, Ark., says the general contractor is moving quickly. "They're building over the shelling plant, a lot of red iron visible overhead. Cold storage is moving along and just needs electrical work to complete. We've seen a lot of work done since the end of January."

Jumper says a surge warehouse "to ‘feed’ the plant is nearing completion. The pit, elevator and belts are installed, and sheeting is well under way. The contractor has finished site work on the cold storage area and has poured concrete."

He says a third storage warehouse foundation is done, and they will "pour concrete this week if weather allows. Our hope is to be shelling peanuts some time on or about June 1, 2020."

Jumper expects Delta Peanut’s crop for 2020 will be 25% larger than 2019 and will top 100,000 tons.

"Most all of our increase is organic growth from our original membership," he says.

"Growth is equitably divided in Arkansas, Missouri and Louisiana. We are trying to provide opportunity for additional growers," Jumper says, "but it will be very limited for the 2020 crop."

Peanuts a bright spot

Peanuts offer a bright spot for Mid-South agriculture, he says. "Farm gate pricing for peanuts remains unchanged from last year, but peanuts for contract growers still represent up to $1,100 to $1,200 per acre in revenue."

The Delta Peanut production area, Jumper and Felton say, offers opportunities to produce consistent supplies of quality peanuts. "Extreme weather conditions in the Southeast sometimes result in high levels of aflatoxin. Delta Peanut’s crop appears to be of very high quality and with very minimum issues with aflatoxin."

Peanut products are enjoying a boost in demand, too, partly, Jumper says, from coronavirus-induced challenges.

Efficient production

Peanuts, Jumper says, pencil out better in 2020 than other crops. "When compared with competitive opportunities, peanuts budget very well, so we expect the Southeast to increase acres planted for 2020."

The most recent USDA Prospective Plantings report (March 31) indicates a 7% national increase in peanut planted acreage.

Arkansas will be good place to produce peanuts efficiently, Felton says. "We have adequate water and need only limited fungicide applications. I've been using only two fungicide applications per year and I am planting my ninth crop this year."

COVID-19 issues

Jumper says Delta Peanut has suffered no loss of time or productivity due to the coronavirus. "But we are taking COVID-19 very seriously. Some of our office staff works from home. We’re discouraging any visits to our offices. The construction site is closed to visitors and vendors and our workers are cooperating with plans to keep them healthy and on the job."

Construction has seen some weather delays, pushing initial completion date from February to late May. But they dodged a big weather-related bullet the last weekend of March when a devastating tornado came through Jonesboro.

"We had no damage to the Delta Peanut shelling plant, Felton says. "Jonesboro took a hard hit but, luckily, few people were in places of business because of the coronavirus closures. The town had few injuries and no fatalities."

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