Virginia one of three peanut-growing regions

Published 9:29 am Wednesday, July 13, 2011

by Dell Cotton

Well, back to the basics this week. I got on my soapbox last month in support of farmers and will likely do so again.

Let’s look at the peanut-growing industry. There are three distinct growing regions in the United States. I will explore each.

n The Southwest comprised of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico grows on average of about 16 percent of the total production of peanuts. The majority of the acreage is irrigated.

All four types of peanuts are grown in the region, including Runners, Spanish, Valencia and Virginias.

Most of the U.S. production of Valencia peanuts is grown in New Mexico. Valencia peanuts can be sold in the shell and actually compete to our Virginia type.

The difference between the two is size of both the hull and kernels. The Valencia hull is more elongated with three or four small kernels in the hull compared to our two or at most three. The majority of U.S. organic production also is in New Mexico.

n The Southeast area made up of Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi grows about 72 percent of the total U.S. production. A little less than half of all production is in Georgia.

Mississippi is relatively new to the region in terms of peanut production and grows about the same acreage as Virginia.

The majority of the region’s production is the Runner type, which is predominantly made into peanut butter. About half of the acres are irrigated.

n The V-C, or Virginia-Carolina region is made up of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Before 2002 and the changes in the federal structure of the peanut program, Virginia grew 75,000 acres, North Carolina 125,000 and South Carolina 10,000. Now Virginia growers plant 15,000-20,000 acres, North Carolina 85,000 and South Carolina 65,000.

The region grows a few Runner peanuts, but the majority of the acreage is devoted to the Virginia peanut. This peanut is the largest of the four types and brings two fairly unique qualities to our region — the in-shell processor and the gourmet industry.

A good percentage of the Virginia type peanuts are sold in the shell, and you see them at ballparks, grocery stores, etc.

The only other competitor in this field would be the few Valencias grown in New Mexico and sold in-shell.

The largest of the shelled Virginia kernels are called super extra large, and these kernels are the ones used by the gourmet industry to sell usually in vacuum cans. The gourmet industry ranges from some large companies to others much smaller.

There are a handful of companies in this business in South Carolina and North Carolina with the majority being in Virginia.

We have a brochure in welcome centers in the state that lists 30 of these companies in Virginia.

So, you can see how important the Virginia type peanut is to our region and our state.

DELL COTTON is director of the Virginia/North Carolina Peanut Growers Association. He can be reached at