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Food safety regs stifle small farmers

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By Sherry Robinson

During the peanut butter scare early this year, when millions of brown baggers were deprived of a favorite staple, my family kept eating peanut butter. No worries. That’s because our preferred brand is Sunland Inc.

Portales-based Sunland not only makes good peanut butter, it’s a New Mexico success story. Sunland, which operates the state’s only peanut butter plant, is also the nation’s largest producer of organic peanut butter.

I’ve been in the plant (one of the benefits of previous jobs covering business in New Mexico), and know Sunland runs a tight ship.

But even Sunland had to contend with fallout from the salmonella outbreak traced to Peanut Corp. of America. Initially inundated with consumer calls, Sunland employees, along with the National Peanut Board, did their best to reassure people.

“We’ve never had a batch of peanuts test positive for salmonella in the 20 years we’ve been in operation,” Sunland CEO Jimmie Shearer told a farm publication. His company pays for testing above and beyond government requirements. “Our philosophy is to pay for extra safety measures now so we are not paying in lost sales later.”


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