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Mississippi's Ag Figures Survive 2000 Drought
By Linda Breazeale
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Agricultural economists predict that miracles still happen. Despite a costly drought in 2000, they expect Mississippi's farm value to hold near the $5 billion level.
Charlie Forrest, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said some slightly better market prices and increased acres are helping offset the statewide economic effects of the drought. Some estimates show the impact of the drought on the state's agricultural economy to be around $311 million in lost revenue and added costs.
"Estimates for the total value of Mississippi agricultural and forestry products is $4.8 billion, up 2 percent from 1999," Forrest said. "The top three crops remain poultry, forestry and cotton, respectively. Values for the state's top two ag commodities are not expected to change much."
Poultry's total value was down about 2 percent, but it held onto its top spot at an estimated $1.45 billion. Increased energy costs and an oversupply of broilers hurt prices and contributed to the decrease in value. Estimates are that Mississippi poultry producers will have harvested 1.58 billion eggs and 706 million broilers in 2000.
"Forestry was practically flat from 1999 to 2000," Forrest said. "The estimated $65 million in value lost because of the drought didn't help."
Forestry's value decreased 1.3 percent in 2000 as prices and harvests declined a second consecutive year. Changing markets, including decreases in lumber and panel sales, also were a big factor in the reduction.
Bob Daniels, Extension forestry specialist, said the southern pine market has declined because of competition with lumber from other parts of the country and Canada. About 60 percent of Mississippi's forest products' value comes from pine sawlogs, which are used to make lumber, plywood and poles.
"Sales of southern pine lumber and panels have declined this year, hurting the value of the harvest," Daniels said. "A number of Mississippi mills have cut back by closing for a time or running one shift instead of two to help bring supplies back into line with demand."
Cotton growers had to work hard for the predicted 17 percent increase in value in a second challenging drought in a row. Forrest said lower production and lower quality caused cotton producers to lose nearly $128 million in potential revenues.
"Cotton prices for the 2000 crop are expected to be 10 cents higher than for the previous year's crop. It's still well below the five-year average. Mississippi growers also harvested about 100,000 more acres of cotton in 2000," Forrest said. "The drought brought yields down about 55 pounds per acre to 649 pounds."
Livestock and catfish, the No. 4 and 5 crops, are expected to improve about 5 percent each. The estimated value of livestock, which includes cattle/calves, milk and hogs, is $334 million, up 6 percent from 1999. Catfish is expected to finish the year with a $292 million value.
Soybeans took the biggest hit in the crop value predictions at $160 million, down 30 percent from 1999. Other crop estimates and their percentage change from 1999 include: rice at $79 million, down 17 percent; hay at $77 million, up 13 percent; corn at $75 million, up 4 percent; sweet potatoes at $34 million, up 3 percent; wheat at $34 million, up 71 percent; grain sorghum at $9 million, down 6 percent; and other horticultural crops were $43 million, up 1 percent.