MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Rice production in Mississippi this year boils down to a tale of two different crops in the field.
Farmers typically start planting rice about April 1 of each year and conclude around May 15. This year, only 75 percent of the crop was in the ground when untimely rains came during the latter part of the planting window. The wet weather pushed rice planting well into June, which meant 25 percent of the crop suffered a late start.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Fuel, feed and packers have Mississippi pork producers over a barrel.
According to statistics from the National Pork Board, Mississippi's hog production numbers over the last seven years (2000-2006) averaged about 470,000 head, which includes market hogs, feeder pigs and sows. But from 2005 through 2007, the average was about 434,000 head. Production at the end of 2007 totaled 412,000 hogs valued at $63 million.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The volatile fuel market has caused nightmares for every farmer, but the problem is particularly vexing for sod producers who cannot escape the added cost of looking good.
Sod has to be trimmed and mowed at least twice a week to maintain good appearance and health before sale. Grass practically sells itself when it is luscious and in shape. But these frequent trips with the mower increase fuel use.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The mortgage crisis and high fuel costs are working against timber markets in 2008.
James Henderson, assistant forestry professor with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said prices for pine pulpwood were increasing early in the year, but higher fuel costs are pressing midyear prices downward, and pine sawtimber prices have been trending downward since the summer of 2007.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Challenged by rains throughout the planting season, Mississippi's soybeans now face make-or-break conditions as they await uniform showers to complete their growth and fill out beans.
“This crop is later than in recent years because early spring rains kept us from planting much of the crop as early as we would have liked,” said Trey Koger, soybean specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. “We are at a crossroads where we need a rain to keep most of this crop going in the right direction.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The price of shrimp is up this season, but so is the cost of getting Mississippi's shrimp harvest to market.
The Mississippi harvest began June 17, with early-season wholesale prices up from 10 cents to $2 a pound, depending on size, said David Burrage, professor of marine resources with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Biloxi.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- April's cold snap may have slowed watermelon production in Mississippi, but growers are still in great shape to cash in on the Fourth of July.
David Nagel, horticulture specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the late spring frost damaged some transplants in the ground at the start of the season. Farmers worked hard to replant those fields and stay on schedule.
“We are seeing watermelons of good quality and size now that harvesting has begun,” Nagel said.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Farmers know what it's like to roll the dice and hope for good weather, low costs and high profits, but the stakes this year for corn producers are higher than usual.
“Farmers can't afford to have a train wreck with their crop, despite high crop market prices,” said Erick Larson, grain crops agronomist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “They are putting so much more into their crop than in years past. One significant hiccup in production could mean the end of their agricultural careers.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's farmers are beginning the 2008 harvest of 450,000 acres of wheat, the most grown in the state in almost two decades.
In 1990, the state had 600,000 acres of winter wheat, but it was a drastically different time then. Wheat yields averaged 30 bushels per acre, and the 1990 price averaged $3.07 per bushel. At the same time, farm diesel averaged 94 cents per gallon, and urea nitrogen fertilizer was $192 per ton.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Dairy farmers would like to celebrate June as dairy month by toasting near-record prices with a glass of cold milk, but they can't afford it.
Bill Herndon, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said skyrocketing production costs have more than narrowed the gap between profit and loss; they have eliminated it. At the same time, the price of milk at the grocery story has climbed steadily, averaging near $4.50 per gallon, up from about $2.80 per gallon in 2003, and is expected to remain high through 2009.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Weather has been kind to Mississippi's hay and forage producers, but the economy has not.
An unusually cool spring, buffered by adequate rainfall, has increased growth in cool-season forages. Spring is the optimum period for nutrient and sugar content to develop in forages grown for hay, and Mother Nature's timing was good.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Demand for poultry products remains strong, but high production costs continue to put a strain on producers' pocketbooks.
John Anderson, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said production costs have soared to historic levels because of high feed prices and climbing diesel fuel prices.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Cotton offers strong profit potential for growers even though it no longer rules as king among the state's row crops.
In 2008, two crops are posting more acreage in Mississippi than cotton's predicted 420,000 acres: soybeans, with 2.05 million acres, and corn, with 670,000 acres. Exceptionally strong markets have lured growers away from their reliable favorite and over to grain crops.
Cotton offers strong profit potential for growers even though it no longer rules as king among the state’s row crops.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Few growers remain in the strawberry business in Mississippi, but consumers still like to buy local produce because of its fresh taste.
“It tastes like a strawberry,” said Allen Eubanks, who with his wife, Janice, owns Eubanks Produce in Greene County. “All our strawberries are handpicked, and they are packed, cooled and shipped out the same night. From the time we pick to the time they are in stores is about two days maximum.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Freezing temperatures, slugs and crawfish sound more like biblical plagues than problems for Mississippi's early corn. Nevertheless, those are among the challenges growers are reporting to the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Erick Larson, Extension small grains specialist, said although a mid-April frost likely will cause little damage across much of the state, many other problems are being reported.