Peanut and manufacturing leaders discuss marketplace sustainability expectations and Sustainable U.S. Peanuts Initiative during industry roundtable

February 26, 2024 (Alexandria, Va.)—Representatives from the manufacturing, shelling and growing segments of the peanut industry came together this week for a forum on sustainability where they highlighted efforts underway by the peanut industry to capture sustainable practices. During the online roundtable, hosted by the American Peanut Council, leaders from each sector discussed marketplace demands and shared how growers are rising to meet these expectations.

As consumer demand continues to grow for measurable sustainable food production practices, so does pressure from manufacturers, retailers and international trading partners. According to a 2023 report from Kearney, 42% of U.S. consumers say they consider sustainable food practices when making purchasing decisions.

To meet these expectations, the American Peanut Council is spearheading an industry-wide effort to benchmark growers’ sustainable practices. The Sustainable U.S. Peanuts Initiative is supporting America’s 7,000-plus peanut farmers with metrics on the most efficient use of on-farm resources, as well as encouraging farm operation sustainability practices that will help lead to increased demand for peanuts and set the stage for long-term economic viability for peanut growers.

“We are constantly aware of our sustainability,” said Dan Ward, a seventh-generation grower from North Carolina and president of the North Carolina Peanut Growers Association and chair of APC’s Sustainability Committee. “From grid sampling for best use of fertilizer applications to staying on top of research of new varieties that allow less trips across the field, we are continually striving to limit our footprint. Not only is this important for the environment, but we want our farms to be financially sustainable for the next generation.”

Courtney Dorsett, vice president of Food Safety and Sustainability at Premium Peanut, the world’s largest single shelling facility, with more than 450 grower owners, echoed Ward’s thoughts. “It’s not just environmental, it’s also an economic plus for the grower. Peanut sustainability is about supporting our farmers to balanceeconomic, social and environmental factors. That’s why we strongly believe in the Sustainable U.S. Peanuts Initiative.”

In its third year, Sustainable U.S. Peanuts is a data-collection platform for growers to voluntarily input information on their individual farming practices, such as crop rotation, cover crops, water usage, breeding and nesting habitats, and more. It is the first of its kind peanut sustainability initiative that will allow growers to tell peanuts’ sustainability story to consumers.

“It is the sustainability story that our customers truly look for,” said Michael Campagna, vice president of Quality, Food Safety and Regulatory at John B. Sanfilippo & Son, whose brands include Fisher, Squirrel Brand and Orchard Valley Harvest, as well as private label. “Having the statistical confidence provided by Sustainable U.S. Peanuts will, in the long run, help us all sell more peanuts and peanut butter. The initiative is creating those stories for the farmers who want to be more efficient, provide more yield and show to consumers peanuts’ positive sustainability story.”

As a legume, peanuts naturally produce their own nitrogen, making them a nitrogen-fixing crop. Further, peanuts have the smallest water footprint of any nut, using only 3.2 gallons of water to produce one ounce, compared to almonds that use 28.7 gallons of water, walnuts that use 26.7 gallons, and pistachios that use 23.6 gallons. Peanuts are also a zero-waste crop since all parts of the plant are utilized.

“As a sheller, our manufacturers are asking for peanut sustainability metrics and peanut’s environmental footprint because their consumers are asking for it,” concluded Dorsett. “It is not going anywhere. It’s only going to become more important with each passing year.”

To learn more about the Sustainable U.S. Peanuts Initiative, visit sustainableuspeanuts.org.

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