Farmers began to reintroduce peanuts into sandy, row crop fields in several parts of Northeast Arkansas in 2010. Through the years, the number of acres has steadily grown and that has led Delta Peanut to build the first peanut sheller in Arkansas.
Delta Peanut is building a $70 million facility on a 71-acre swath inside the Craighead County Technology Park.
It’s expected to be operational by the time the peanut harvest begins.
“This project couldn’t have happened without the support of the roughly 60 farmers/investors that put $26.5 million into Delta Peanut,” CEO Tommy Jumper said. “This facility will not only benefit farmers who grow peanuts. Dozens of high-paying, high-quality jobs will be created because of this project. We are excited to see construction underway.”
When the shelling operation is fully up and running it will shell over 180,000 tons of peanuts annually. Over 60,000 tons of those peanuts will be on-site in Jonesboro and stored in three warehouses and one “surge” warehouse. Additional buying points will store the balance in neighboring towns in Arkansas and surrounding states. The Jonesboro site will also have six drying buildings. The operation is expected to employ more than 100 workers.
“Encouraging investment by companies like Delta Peanut fit perfectly in the Jonesboro Unlimited Strategic Plan. Agriculture is essential to the strength and continued growth of Jonesboro and our economy. The addition of Delta Peanut and the 130 direct, high-paying jobs it will bring to Jonesboro make this a great day for Jonesboro,” Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Young said.
Approximately 30,000 acres of peanuts will be planted regionally this year, according to USDA. Those peanuts would have to be transported to shelling plants in West Texas or South Georgia. With the addition of Delta Peanut in Jonesboro and a separate buying point in Marianna, regional peanut growers will have the option to cut miles and costs and bring those peanuts to market closer to home.
With peanut butter makers Jif in Memphis, Skippy in Little Rock and Kraft-owned Planters Peanut in Fort Smith, having Delta Peanut in Jonesboro is a logical location, officials said.
Arkansas was a peanut producer up until the early 1980s. Peanut production shifted to other states like Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas. Growing conditions and soil were two main reasons why the legume grew better in other states.
It takes peanuts about five months to grow, and the plant prefers sandy soil. At the end of the process, peanuts have to be “turned” in the field, exposing them to wind and sun. This helps to dry the nuts before the harvest. The weather in Northeast Arkansas is at the edge of a peanut plant’s tolerance.
Northeast Arkansas has sandy soil in some areas, especially in Lawrence, Craighead, Mississippi, and other counties, but farmers were leery about fall weather in the region. It often turns cold in the area during the peanut harvest which can hurt yields. During the turn process, rains can damage the crop and it’s a concern for farmers.
“I am excited that Tommy Jumper and his developers are putting this facility in Jonesboro. It will not only create jobs for our people, but it is tied directly to agriculture, which is a big part of our economy,” Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin said.