3Qs: Dr. Brian Williams, agricultural economist

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

This spring’s weather has affected farmers in unusual ways. Daily Journal reporter Errol Castens visited recently with Dr. Brian Williams, an agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, about the weather’s impacts.

Q: What have been the general effects on crops and farm animals from our wet, cool spring?
A: The biggest impact has been a delay in planting, with some crops, particularly soybeans, still not completely in the ground. With cotton, planting delays have caused some producers to switch to soybeans. It has also slowed wheat harvest across the state.
Livestock, hay and pasture are in relatively good condition. Planting delays have caused high corn prices, driving up feed costs for feedlots, which partially offset the higher costs with lower prices for feeder cattle coming out of Mississippi. Higher corn and soybean prices have increased feed costs for Mississippi’s poultry producers.

Q: What commodities are the most negatively impacted, and can they catch up over the summer?
A: When crops are planted too late into the spring yields are often reduced, but that is not always the case. Corn typically does best when nighttime temperatures get down into the 60s during key development stages. If the weather is indeed hot and dry during these critical development stages, yields could take a hard hit this year, but if the summer is mild we can still see great yields. Much of the same is true for other Mississippi crops.

Q: What are likely economic impacts of the unusual season?
A: Given what we know right now, it looks like corn yields will be lower than normal both in Mississippi and nationally, supporting corn prices into fall. Higher corn prices are good news for producers, but they also mean higher food prices at the grocery store. Soybean prices typically move with corn prices, but any land that farmers could not get planted to corn will likely be switched to soybeans, which could keep soybean prices down.
Although we did see record high beef prices during the week preceding Memorial Day, I believe if we had a more normal year those prices would have been even higher. Memorial Day is often said to be the official beginning of the summer grilling season, but the weather this spring, both here in Mississippi and nationally, has kept many consumers indoors. That has significantly reduced beef consumption and has in turn limited the upside of beef and cattle prices.