March 14, 2012 Edition

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State and county officials celebrate the announcement that a new Birdsong peanut buying point will be located in Lawrence County. Gathered Friday at the courthouse were (from left): State Rep. James Ratliff; Justice of the Peace Jeff Reese; Ronnie Thompson Jr., Shannon Strickland, Rodney Brown, all with Birdsong; County Judge Dale Freeman; Gerald Garland with Birdsong; Adam Weeks, attorney; John Trawick, Chris Henson and Kevin Calhoun, all with Birdsong. TD Photo ~ John Bland

Birdsong locating buying
point in Lawrence County

Birdsong Peanuts announced Friday that it will locate a new peanut buying point off Highway 412, between Portia and Walnut Ridge, in Lawrence County.

The facility will be able to service over 15,000 new acres of peanuts and create five local jobs with the potential for expansion based on demand.

In 2011, there were over 7,000 tons of peanuts grown in Arkansas, but they were all trucked out of the state and processed in other states, according to a Birdsong press release.

"Peanuts and Lawrence County just make good sense," said State Rep. James Ratliff. "This buying point will ensure that our farmers have a permanent place to market their peanut crop in the future."

Peanut farmers in the area will now be able to take their peanuts directly to the Birdsong facility, where the peanuts will be dried, inspected and stored before being shelled and sold to food manufacturers.

"Birdsong is excited by the relationships it has been able to form with Arkansas farmers and is eager to work with area farmers going forward," said Gerald Garland, Birdsong vice president and general manager of the Southeast Division. "Arkansas' climate and sandy soils make it an attractive area for expansion for Birdsong's peanut production."

Peanuts and peanut products comprise 67 percent of U.S. nut consumption, according to Birdsong. The U.S. market requires a minimum of 150,000 tons of peanuts per month.

Birdsong supplies peanuts to large national companies such as ConAgra (Peter Pan), Hershey, Kraft, MARS, Nestle, J.M. Smucker (JIF) and Unilever (Skippy).

In 2011, Arkansas ranked 11th among all states in peanut production. "Birdsong's decision to locate and invest in Lawrence County is an exciting expansion to both our area's agricultural economy and Northeast Arkansas' overall economy," said State Senator Robert Thompson, who was unable to be present at Friday's announcement.

Birdsong, based in Suffolk, Va., has been in operation since 1914. The company has operations in 10 states, including 85 buying points and six shelling plants.

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