From tree farming to traditional crop farming, agriculture is a $7.5 billion industry in Mississippi. Products from one crop that's growing in popularity in the state could very well be found inside some of your favorite snacks. Within the last six years, the number of peanut farmers in Mississippi has grown from less than a dozen to more than 100.
"The number of producers started out basically in South Mississippi from Hattiesburg to the Lucedale area with about 10 growers, and now we've got over 120," says Mississippi Peanut Grower Association President, Doctor Malcolm Broome. He goes on to say that several factors have led to the popularity of peanuts.
"A rotation in the crop mix is one thing; peanuts fit in well with the rotation of cotton, and so many areas in the state have just grown cotton for just a number of years. After 40 or 50 years the soil just needed a rest to change to another crop."
Doctor Broome also attributes a drought two years ago in the western part of the U.S. with increasing interest in peanut farming here at home.
"We've had some real good economics, especially the year before last when we had the drought out in the west, that caused the price of peanuts to go up considerably."
Currently, 80-percent of the peanuts grown within the U.S. come from either: Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama or Florida.
"Mississippi State University has committed to hire a peanut agronomist; we have him on staff now," says Broome. "So, that's somebody who can help these growers with their cultural practices.
Putting all of that together, we seem to think that we have upward potential quite a bit here within the next few years."
According to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, peanut farming is a $52 million industry in Mississippi with almost 50,000 acres harvested annually.