It’s a little known fact: Texas is the only state that grows all four types of peanuts, and is second only to Georgia in peanut farming. Unfortunately, this year’s extreme drought is taking a toll on West Texas peanut farmers.
Calvin Trostle is with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension in Lubbock, where most Texas peanuts are grown. This year, he’s seeing something he never has before. “This is a shock to us, to think that we could have an irrigated crop in the Texas High Plains fail,” he says, “but we’ve had some acres of peanuts out here that eventually, as we got further into the season, we saw we simply did not have enough water.”
Even with extra irrigation, peanut farmers were short 10 to 12 inches of water this year, and the crops are suffering. Plants that appeared healthy at first are turning out to have no peanuts under them. Jimbo Grissom grows peanuts south of Lubbock. His farm went 440 days without rain, and that’s come with a heavy cost.
“I’ve never seen one, even a lot of the people that live around here, have never seen a crop year like this one’s been. Even back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, whenever we had the Dust Bowl, it wasn’t even this dry,” he says.
The cost of extra water, combined with lower yields, adds up to prices that are about three times higher than last year. It won’t be long before higher bulk prices result in peanut butter costing more at the store.
“So the consumers may feel like they’re removed from the drought, except for their yards are drying up, or they’re seeing trees along the highway that aren’t looking healthy, but where it’s really going to impact them, and where they’re really going to feel it, is in their pocketbook when having to pay more for these products that are grown in the field,” according to Shelly Nutt, executive director of the Texas Peanut Producers Board.
Nutt says that unless the current dry weather pattern changes, farmers in West Texas will be reluctant to plant more peanuts, which will mean higher prices for consumers in the near future.