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Did you know the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) has a peanut grading station in Portales? Did you know this facility monitors the quality of peanuts grown in New Mexico and west Texas? We all know New Mexico to be the nation’s leader in green chile production and No. 2 in pecans, but rarely is the state associated with milled peanut production. However, according to the 2021 New Mexico Agricultural Statistic Bulletin, New Mexico ranks No. 11 in peanut production in the United States. The NMDA peanut grading station is a hidden gem that highlights one of the most unexpected crops grown in West Texas and New Mexico.
This station has three full-time agricultural commodity graders that inspect peanuts. The purpose of these inspections is to check the peanuts to ensure they are suitable for human consumption. Peanut harvest season usually begins in September and ends in December. Peanuts are graded based on size and type. During the inspection process, inspectors look for defects and look for peanuts which may have been frozen or are rancid, moldy or decayed.
Four different types of peanuts are graded at the station: Runners, Virginia, Spanish and Valencia. These peanuts arrive either in their shells (in-shell) or without their shells (shelled). During harvesting, the station can expect to complete 15-20 inspections a day. After the peanuts pass inspection, they are released into processing to their final destination. Some of the peanuts processed in the Portales area and graded at the station will go as far as Mexico, Canada and the European Union.
“Our station focuses on the size, quality and condition of all peanuts collected from New Mexico and West Texas,” said Alvaro Gomez, an NMDA agricultural commodity grader. “This station prides itself on providing quality assurance to all consumers of the peanuts processed.”
Although their main operations are at the station in Portales, the three agricultural commodity graders occasionally travel to southern New Mexico to assist in onion inspections during the summer. Additionally, two of the agricultural commodity graders housed at the station double as unrestricted inspectors/process auditors who are responsible for conducting inspections and audits.
There are three peanut mills in the Portales area, including two shelled peanut operations and one that is both a shelled and in-shell milled facility. There are two buying-point facilities during the harvest season.
In 2021-22, the peanut grading station inspected 94.4 million pounds of milled peanuts and is set to exceed that this year with 37 million pounds already inspected for 2022-23.
The station hires temporary employees (agricultural commodity grader assistants) to help with the millions of pounds of peanuts coming through the station. Anywhere from five-12 assistants are hired during harvest.
An NMDA regulatory clerk contributes to the overall operations of the station, which is supervised by the NMDA fruits and vegetable inspection supervisor.
Watch a video about the station at www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAIPD6sZfTo.
NMDA is based at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
For more information, call 575-356-8393 or email F&V@nmda.nmsu.edu.
Visit NMDeptAg.nmsu.edu and follow NMDA @NMDeptAg on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn.