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State's agriculture exceeds $6 billion
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's crops endured major hurricanes and may not repeat their record yields, but economists are predicting that the state's agricultural value of production just topped 2004 levels to break the historic $6 billion mark.
|Mississippi's Top Crop Values
(Estimated in millions)
|1. Poultry 1,977|
|2. Forestry 1,267|
|3. Cotton* 697|
|4. Soybeans* 315|
|5. Catfish 272|
|6. Cattle/calves 250|
|7. Rice 134|
|8. Corn* 102|
|9. Hay* 88|
|10. Horticultural crops* 79|
|11. Milk 61|
|12. Sweet potatoes* 57|
|13. Hogs 52|
|14. Wheat* 16|
|15. Grain sorghum* 4|
|*Agronomic crops' total 1,492|
|Government payments 841|
Agricultural commodities are expected to decline 2 percent in overall value, but an increase in government payments helped recover the difference.
John Anderson, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said government payments are predicted at $841 million. The amount doubled from 2004 but is similar to that posted in 2003. Anderson said this increase is consistent with what other states received. He said the increased payments occurred in ad hoc and emergency program payments, counter-cyclical payments and loan deficiency payments.
“Hurricanes Katrina and Rita took tolls on most of the state's crops, if not from direct damage, then by further driving up fuel prices and farmers' cost of production,” Anderson said.
The state's two biggest crops -- poultry and forestry -- were the hardest hit. Poultry's value is expected to be 6 percent below the previous year's value, but it retains its No. 1 ranking with an estimated value of $1.98 billion. Forestry is expected to improve only 1 percent to $1.27 billion.
“Hurricane Katrina took down two year's worth of timber harvests and killed millions of broilers,” Anderson said. “In the days following the storm, even more birds died because of power outages and fuel shortages. Forestry was experiencing a strong year before Katrina, and efforts to salvage and market downed timber helped prevent major forestry value losses in 2005.”
Anderson said agronomic crops experienced a “mixed bag” of success, most without dramatic changes in prices. Cotton has a projected value of $697 million, soybeans at $315 million, rice at $134 million, corn at $102 million, hay at $88 million, horticulture at $79 million, sweet potatoes at $57 million, wheat at $16 million and grain sorghum at $4 million.
“Most values of production were driven by increases or decreases in acreage or yields, such as with corn's 29 percent decline,” Anderson said. “On the other hand, soybeans had only a slight acreage decline but very good yields. A lot of soybean's 14 percent value decline came from prices that were down almost a dollar per bushel.”
Erick Larson, Extension grain crops specialist, said corn's planted acreage dropped from 460,000 in 2004 to 380,000 in 2005. Yields also dropped slightly, but remained near record levels of 133 bushels per acre.
“2006 corn acreage probably will go down again largely because of high nitrogen fertilizer costs which are tied directly to natural gas prices,” Larson said. “Corn is still very important to farmers because of its value in crop rotations.”
Improved lint prices enabled the state's top row crop and No. 3 overall agricultural commodity, cotton, to post nearly a 5 percent value increase. Average yields of 854 pounds per acre were well short of the record 1,024 pounds set in 2004, but still encouraging after the weather challenges faced in 2005.
Nathan Buehring, Extension rice specialist, said those weather conditions had a significant impact on rice yields.
“The hurricanes and high temperatures combined to reduce our average yields about 400 pounds per acre from the year before,” Buehring said. “Rice acreage increases of about 29,000 acres would be the reason for any increase in value, which economists are predicting at 14 percent.”
Anderson said hurricanes Katrina and Rita created direct and indirect costs to the agricultural industry. The direct impact was the lost and damaged crops.
“Then after the hurricanes, fuel prices shot up and remain higher than a year ago,” Anderson said. “Energy prices will affect fertilizer costs in 2006 and influence cropping decisions. Farmers are likely to reduce corn acreage and increase soybeans.”
The economist said values lost in horticultural crops to Katrina should be regained generously in 2006 as the recovery turns toward the need for turf and landscape plants. Horticulture's 2005 value is predicted to be down 4 percent from the previous year.
Catfish values changed little and remain near $272 million. Anderson said prices were up about 4 percent but production was down about 4 percent.
“The livestock industry took a hard hit by Hurricane Katrina, especially the dairy industry,” Anderson said. “Some dairy farmers sold out immediately. Some cattle farmers sold because of the extent of the damage to fences and facilities. Dry conditions following the hurricanes made feed costs even higher. We are likely to see a lower value of production for cattle next year, primarily in southern counties.”
Total livestock value of production is estimated at $363 million, up 7 percent from 2004.