MISSISSIPPI STATE – Catfish pond acreage in Mississippi continues to decline, with the high cost of production and poor prices partly to blame.
Jim Steeby, aquaculture specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the entire U.S. catfish industry is downsizing. As of late July, Mississippi had 70,000 acres of catfish ponds, down from the high of 113,000 acres the state had in 2001.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Three weeks of cool, rainy weather in July were just what the state’s soybeans needed, breathing new life into the struggling crop.
Trey Koger, soybean specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said weather extremes have affected the crop. Cold, wet spring weather delayed a lot of planting. Most of June was hot and dry and most of July was wet and cooler.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Low prices and below-average landings are making a poor season for shrimpers, but consumers are getting a great deal on high-quality Gulf shrimp.
Dave Burrage, professor of marine resources with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said Mississippi’s shrimp season opened late and in two phases. Normally the season opens in early June, and part did open June 7, but the rest did not open until June 25.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi’s 2.1 million acres in forage production have struggled from one extreme to the other, and farmers are hoping for a little help from Mother Nature to produce an adequate 2009 crop.
Rocky Lemus, forage specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said pastures and hay fields are just passing the midway point in the growing season.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Mississippi’s 2009 cotton is shaping up to be more a story of how the mighty have fallen than another chapter in the reign of King Cotton.
A poor outlook on market prices and continued high input costs led many producers to move away from cotton, and wet weather during the April and May planting window kept even more acres out of cotton production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates Mississippi has 270,000 acres of cotton in 2009, the lowest on record. For comparison, Mississippi had 1.2 million acres of cotton in 2006.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Fickle weather may have altered the production schedule for watermelons this year, but Mississippi growers will have plenty of the popular red fruit available for summertime eating.
“Growers started pulling melons last week and will be in full swing as the marketing season begins,” said George County agent Mike Steede of the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “The melons look good and have filled out well.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Mississippi’s fruit growers are harvesting about twice as many blueberries as they did last year, thanks largely to the lack of significant spring freezes.
John Braswell, Mississippi State University horticulture specialist at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, said growers in south Mississippi have just passed the peak of the 2009 harvest season.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Wheat growers in Mississippi watched what was a very good crop in early spring turn into a major disappointment by harvest.
About 75 percent of the state’s 230,000 wheat acres were harvested by mid-June. Some of the remaining acres will never be harvested, as they are flooded by Yazoo River backwater.
Erick Larson, grain crops agronomist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the crop was doing well through February until heavy rains started in mid-March and continued through April and May.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – An unusually wet May is causing some farmers to plant rice late, but the crop still has time to develop into a good one for the Delta.
Farmers could see decent prices, too, if several market factors play out by the time harvest occurs. They expect to complete planting by early June if rains relent and fields dry out. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that Mississippi’s rice crop will total 240,000 acres when farmers are through.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Mississippi farmers finished planting their estimated 630,000 acres of corn on time, but the continuing effects of rain, standing water and cool soil temperatures have slowed the crop’s development in many areas of the state.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Heavy rains across the state brought planting and field work to a grinding halt since the first of May, causing some crops to grow rapidly and compete with weeds for needed nutrients.
The state had fairly uniform accumulations and an average of just over 7 inches of rain for the week ending May 10. The Gulf Coast had the least rain, with Biloxi getting less than 1 inch, while Belzoni in the lower Delta recorded the week’s high at 13.56 inches.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Health officials assure consumers that pork is safe to eat and no victims in the current flu outbreak had contact with hogs, but neither fact has protected market prices or import restrictions on Mexican and U.S. pork products.
Even if health organizations succeed in changing the name, much of the world always will consider the H1N1 virus to be “swine flu.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi producers can finish planting a potentially good corn crop in the next month if Mother Nature will spot them good weather.
Frequent rains in some areas of the state in the last two months have saturated soil, keeping fields too wet to plant. Cold temperatures in other areas have not allowed soil to stay warm enough to germinate seeds and to encourage growth in emerged seedlings.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Dairy farmers have seen demand for their product sour at a time when it has never cost more to produce milk, and many are selling cows to cut costs.
John Anderson, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said milk prices per hundredweight were $13.23 in March and have been $14.66 in April. Farmers got $21.78 per hundredweight for fluid milk a year ago.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Many south Mississippi farmers have rotated peanuts with corn, soybeans and other crops to get through tough times, and word is spreading that this strategy can work for their counterparts in the northeast part of the state.
Peanuts make a good rotational crop because they are drought-tolerant, require less labor than other alternatives and have good loan assistance support. The marketing assistance loan for peanuts is $355 per ton, which in the minds of many farmers, beats “50-cent cotton.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE – High market prices and low input costs continue to make soybeans an attractive crop that will gain acres in 2009, but apparently not as many as originally predicted.
John Anderson, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said market watchers have been eager to see soybean acreage predictions. He said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Prospective Plantings Report released March 31 was greeted “with a lot of anticipation in the marketplace.”