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Planting Intentions Reflect Crop Prices
By Bethany Waldrop Keiper
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- This year's planting intentions report yielded few surprises as producers based many acreage decisions on market prices.
Economists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced their 1996 crop predictions March 29. The biggest change for Mississippi is corn acreage, rising from 300,000 acres in '95 to 550,000 acres for 1996 -- an 83 percent increase.
"Some of this acreage probably came out of cotton acreage," said DeWitt Caillavet, extension economist at Mississippi State University. "Corn prices have been extremely good and are expected to stay that way -- they may possibly increase."
The tough growing conditions cotton producers faced in 1995 are reflected in this year's intended cotton acreage of 1.20 million acres.
"Last year's battle with insects and high production costs helped pull expected cotton acreage down 18 percent," Caillavet said. "Last year was Mississippi cotton growers' third year of high insect control costs."
Intended acreage of grain sorghum had the second-highest percent increase in the state, rising from 45,000 acres in '95 to 75,000 acres in 1996.
Sorghum and corn are both feed crops, and highs and lows in their prices usually are related.
"Feed prices and costs are going up, so it's not surprising that growers would put more acres in grain sorghum," Caillavet said. "Mississippi's sorghum acreage is prone to fluctuations -- in 1994, acreage was also 75,000."
State wheat acreage is expected to climb 28 percent to 230,000 acres. The economist attributed this rise to extremely high wheat prices.
Expected soybean acreage experienced very little change at both the state and national levels.
"Mississippi's 1.9 million reported soybean acres was a bit surprising since prices have been fairly good," Caillavet said. "But many growers are uneasy about these good prices continuing."
Although rice acreage dropped slightly for both the state and the nation, Mississippi's intended planting of 270,000 acres was surprising to many.
The economist said rice acreage was expected to drop this year because of changes in farm programs, but fairly high prices kept acreage levels relatively stable.
Nationally, corn and grain sorghum acreages are both up 12 percent, at 79.92 million acres and 10.62 million acres, respectively.
National cotton acreage is expected to drop 10 percent to 15.2 million acres.
In Mississippi, Mother Nature and Father Time may have the final say on state crop acreages for 1996.
In recent years, cool, wet weather has delayed plantings in many areas of the state, forcing growers to fall back on second-choice crops with later planting dates.