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Report Paints Positive Agricultural Picture
STARKVILLE -- Although farmers continue to be at the mercy of unforeseeable conditions, a recent report released on the eve of harvest season is painting an optimistic picture.
The Mississippi Agricultural Statistics Service's Aug. 1 crop production forecast is predicting larger state crops in soybeans, hay, and corn and sorghum for grain. With the exception of grain corn, yields per acre are expected to be higher in all major crops including cotton and rice.
With the benefit of midseason hindsight, most cotton farmers were wise to take advantage of the government's allowance to switch land from cotton to other crops -- primarily corn and soybeans.
Dr. O.A. Cleveland, extension marketing specialist at Mississippi State University, said market prices and the high cost of cotton production in recent years were influencing factors.
"At planting time, the cotton market was down, and corn and soybean prices were looking good and are even more favorable now," Cleveland said. "Cotton prices have declined significantly, and grain prices have escalated since planting season."
Cleveland said the national cotton crop is predicted at 18.6 million bales, compared to 17.9 million bales in 1995. Planted acreage was 16.9 million acres in 1995, compared to 14.1 million this year.
Mississippi is projected to harvest 1.7 million bales. Although that is down 8 percent from last year, the yield per acre is estimated to increase 170 pounds to about 792 pounds.
Cotton farmers shouldn't count their bolls until they are baled. After the release of last year's Aug. 1 crop forecast, yields plummeted by 650,000 bales -- the victim of high budworm numbers and near-record high temperatures in August.
Other estimates released in this year's Aug. 1 report included a record 56.7 million bushel corn harvest, up 117 percent from 1995. Although the yields are expected to be down 2 bushels at about 93 bushels per acre, the statewide acreage was up 122 percent from last year.
Grain sorghum also is estimated to be up 89 percent this year at 5.04 million bushels. Acreage is up 76 percent at about 72,000 acres.
The statistics service forecast soybean production at 47.3 million bushels, up 25 percent. Yields are expected in the 27 bushel-per-acre range, up 6 bushels.
Mississippi's rice crop is predicted to be about 20 percent smaller than last year. Yield is anticipated at 5,700 pounds per acre, up 300 pounds from 1995. The state's rice farmers planted 218,000 acres, down 24 percent from last year.
Hay is forecast 20 percent higher than last year at 2 million tons. Acreage is up 10 percent at 800,000 acres.