Mspi crop production declines in 2006

Published 7:45 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Mississippi farm production was down for all the state’s major crops in 2006, a U.S. Department of Agriculture report shows.

Corn production dropped 24 percent, soybeans fell 26 percent and rice dipped 21 percent from 2005, according to USDA estimates.

Experts said the increased cost of corn would cause a slight increase in poultry and catfish prices, which use the crop for feed.

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“It was a very difficult year for producers because of the cost of production and lower yields,” said John Anderson, associate professor of agricultural economics at Mississippi State University.

The summer drought affected the yield per acre for most crops.

“It depends a lot on the area,” said Steve Cannada of Cannada Farms, just outside Edwards.

He said the Bolton-Edwards area was lucky to receive rain at the right time, but the northern part of the state was hit very hard.

“We caught a couple of good rains,” he said.

Steve Good of Good Farms in Noxubee County said he normally harvests 35 to 40 bushels of soybeans per acre, but last year he was able to harvest only 10.

Good said fuel costs nearly tripled because of the need for irrigation.

“We pumped water until we finished in August,” he said, who along with his son, Ben, plants corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat on approximately 3,000 acres.

Good said other farmers in his area had the worst year he has seen since he started farming in the 1970s.

Cotton had a modest decline of 2 percent. The number may not be a good reflection of the crop’s performance because 2005 was already bad.

“Cotton was significantly hurt by Hurricane Rita (in 2005),” he said, when 2.147 million bales were produced.

Farms yielded 826 bales of cotton per acre in 2006 and 859 bales in 2005. But in 2004, the state was able to gather 1,024 bales per acre, which was a record year.

Corn and soybean fields were harvested before Rita, so the storm did not impact those crops. Experts said lighter production would cost farmers but did not have any exact figures.

“As it was a poor year, it will be less equipment bought,” said Good. “You will watch your money closer, meaning you don’t buy anything unless you need it.”

The USDA will release final production statistics in April.

Some growers made a conscious decision not to plant, said Rickey Gray, deputy director of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce.

Although farmers produced less rice in 2006, the ones that did were able to produce more per acre.

Anderson said because of the high cost of producing rice – keeping the land irrigated – fewer farmers participated.

Peanuts are a small but growing crop in the state and saw a 7 percent increase in production.

“Our soils are suited for peanuts to grow, and it is an excellent rotation crop for corn,” said Andy Prosser of the state agriculture department.

Many predict the growing demand for ethanol and rising prices will push more farmers to plant corn this year.

“Corn is looking like it could get to $5 a bushel, and we sold ours for $2.52 a bushel (last year),” Cannada said.

Anderson said Mississippi farmers were not able to benefit from price increases for rice, corn and soybeans because they were harvested before the prices climbed. He said farmers are now determining what they will plant in the coming year.

He said he will take out more insurance because of the low yields.

“We will plant more corn, less cotton, less soybean and more wheat,” Good said.

Cannada said because corn will be harvested in a short window some farmers are not planting that crop.

“If they had a place to put it there would probably be more people planting corn.”