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Soybeans Nudge State's Acreage
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A projected soybean increase of 200,000 acres is pushing Mississippi's planted acreage up for 1997, despite drops in cotton and corn.
Mississippi is expected to plant 3.9 million acres in the state's top four crops -- soybeans, cotton, corn and rice -- compared to 3.76 million acres last year.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Planting Intentions Report, released March 31, revealed few surprises. Rice was the only other row crop expected to increase acreage in 1997, jumping 19 percent to 250,000 acres.
Dr. Alan Blaine, extension soybean specialist at Mississippi State University, described the report as "interesting" because of the unexplainable acreage change in the four crops.
"Where is that extra 140,000 acres coming from? I'm not seeing that much additional acreage out in the state," Blaine said.
Mississippi soybean growers are expected to plant 2 million acres, an 11 percent increase from last year.
"What we are seeing is a short-term response to the Freedom to Farm act. Growers are finally able to capitalize on a positive practice (crop rotation) without being penalized by a government program," Blaine said. "I hope the long-term response is continuing the practice of crop rotation."
Dr. Tom Jones, extension agricultural economist at MSU, said three other factors contributed to the forecast for increased soybean plantings.
"Improving bean prices, poorer corn prices and a disappearing planting window for corn have inspired growers to plant more soybeans in place of corn," Jones said. "Soybeans are about a dollar ahead of last year's cash prices. Current prices are running above $8 a bushel."
On the other hand, corn cash prices are about a dollar less, currently around $3 a bushel.
"Farmers who grow state-average corn will still make money at these prices," Jones said.
The report forecast Mississippi's 1997 corn crop at 550,000 acres, down 13 percent, but still higher than 1995's 300,000 acres.
Higher production costs are resulting in another expected decrease in Mississippi's cotton crop. The report predicts 1.1 million acres in Mississippi, which is 360,000 acres down from 1995.
"That 1.1 million acres is a best-case scenario," said Dr. Will McCarty, extension cotton specialist at MSU. "With the Mississippi River and bean prices both high, the forecast for cotton acreage is down."
McCarty said about 70,000 to 100,000 cotton acres have been underwater near the river. Additional rains from Missouri down to Mississippi could force cotton out of more fields.
"Because of the bad economic situation in recent years, farmers have been pulling back to their best land for cotton to get their profit margins up," McCarty said.