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Mississippi Crops Make News In '97
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's total value of production posted an new record of $4.9 billion, an increase of 3 percent from 1996. Casual observers might think a 3 percent change means little happened in Mississippi's 1997 farm economy.
"Several row crops had significant changes in their total value this year, but that was largely because of planted acreage changes," said Dr. John Robinson, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University.
Mississippi's 1997 farm economy reflects a second year with the freedom to make farming decisions based on personal choices rather than government allowances.
After the boom in corn acreage and prices in 1996 when the state achieved a 214 percent increase in total value, growers reduced their 1997 plantings. Economists predict the state's total corn value to drop 48 percent to $129 million. Two years ago, the total corn value was $70 million.
"Just as prices and the Freedom to Farm Bill inspired growers to plant more corn in 1996, those factors also contributed to planting decisions in 1997," Robinson said.
Mississippi's total wheat value also declined 47 percent to $29.6 million, largely due to reduced acres.
"When you first see that there was a 47 or 48 percent decrease in the value of a crop, you might think farmers are hurting, but that is not necessarily the case," Robinson said. "Most growers experienced better-than-average yields and average prices. Drastic changes in planted acres were the main culprit for the value decreases."
Of the state's top three crops -- poultry, forestry and cotton -- only cotton was impacted by acreage changes. A record harvest helped make up the difference for fewer cotton acres. Economists estimate a 3 percent decline in cotton's lint and seed value to about $650 million.
"As long as corn and soybean prices remain good, cotton prices stay flat and the production costs and risks are high, there is not going to be any incentive to plant more cotton acres," said Dr. Will McCarty, MSU extension cotton specialist.
McCarty said the state is in danger of planting less than 900,000 acres in 1998. While growers will find replacement crops, the infrastructure of the industry could be stressed.
Broilers and eggs will top the state's ag commodity charts with $1.43 billion, a 6 percent increase. Demand -- foreign and domestic -- and Mississippi's strategic geographic location are big benefits from the state's poultry growers.
Forestry set its 10th record in 11 years with an estimated value of $1.22 billion, a 3 percent increase. Pine, which makes up about 70 percent of the state's forest products value, experienced improved prices and production in 1997.
Other notable increases included rice, up 31 percent to $157 million, and soybeans, up 25 percent to $474 million. Catfish also increased 22 percent to $380 million.