During the past week, it was my good fortune to return to South Georgia, where farmers are still waiting for their fields to warm enough to plant the 2014 peanut crop. The Blakely, GA, plant – once a major purchaser of Georgia peanuts – stands empty. It’s one of the few inactive sites in the Early County Industrial Park along Highway 62. All signage from the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America is gone. The South erects a lot of historical markers, but, as yet, there is no sign in Blakely telling the story of how poison peanut butter from PCA ended up killing nine people and sickening 700 others and became one of the most deadly Salmonella outbreaks in U.S. history. All that exists is the blank spot where PCA’s once-familiar sign stood when the 2008-2009 outbreak frightened just about every parent in America, including the two who reside in the White House, because almost all kids love peanut butter. I first visited Blakely when the outbreak was under way, and the local folks seemed to be either in denial or fearful about the outbreak’s impact on the Georgia peanut industry. And there were about 180,000 fewer acres planted with peanuts the first planting season after the outbreak. Yet one would be hard-pressed to find a long-term impact on the industry. Georgia plants half of all U.S. acreage dedicated to peanuts and, at 1.7 million tons, accounts for 50 percent of the nation’s peanut production. Almost all the counties in the bottom half of the state plant peanuts, providing 50,000 jobs, and about 3,500 farmers plant peanuts on 14,000 individual farms. It’s common for acreage to be planted in peanuts one year and cotton the next. Dr. George Washington Carver developed that crop rotation strategy to give the South’s worn-out soil time to recover. Carver brought the peanut to Georgia. Peanuts, but not cotton, are eligible for federal payments under the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) provisions of the new Farm Bill. As a covered commodity – along with corn, wheat, oats, barley, etc. – growing peanuts might even become more popular in South Georgia. All of this makes it easy to understand why the peanut growers and the 200 or so Georgia companies that shell, roast, and otherwise add value to peanuts are feeling pretty good about the future. March is National Peanut Month and tomorrow is Georgia PB&J Day at the State Capitol in Atlanta. Sponsors will be handing out PB&Js, grilled PB&Js, country-fried peanuts, boiled peanuts and other goodies. They’ll also donate 18,720 jars of peanut butter valued at $56,160 to the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Georgia’s $2-billion peanut industry will have no trouble finding takers for its products. There is no reason to think of them as anything but safe and nutritious. Yet, I do feel some discomfort with the fact that, outside of the federal courtroom in Albany, South Georgia seems to have erased the PCA outbreak from its collective memory. That’s also a reason why it’s important for a jury trial of four former PCA executives to go forward this summer. That the four are charged with a total of 76 federal felony count might make it more likely the PCA story will end with a plea bargain. But it has not happened yet, and the pre-trial hearing held this past week showed both prosecutors and defense attorneys taking every word or punctuation mark very seriously if it might have an impact on the trial. The next big pre-trial hearing is scheduled for mid-April when farmers should be planting peanut kernels. Forty days after that is when South Georgia should come alive with yellow flowers as the peanuts grow below ground. It’s when those flowers bloom that we will probably know whether South Georgia is going to get a trial it won’t forget.