With commodity prices at or near historic highs, it’s a good time to have crops in the ground.
Problem is, at least for many Northeast Mississippi farmers, the ground is too wet.
Darel Nicholson, for example, has managed to plant only 600 of the 1,000 acres he set aside for corn.
While rainfall hasn’t been a problem – the region has received above-normal amount so far this year – it has arrived in patches that have made planting difficult.
“I got three-quarters of what I wanted planted, but I’m going to have to replant,” the Nettleton farmer said. “I’ve been trying to get to the last 400 acres, but I can’t.”
Nicholson also wants to plant about 2,000 acres of soybeans, along with 300 acres of cotton.
“We’ve got time to do all that – if it dries up,” he said.
Charlie Stokes, the Mississippi State University Extension Service area agronomy agent, has been hearing similar stories across the region.
While corn growers south of Tupelo generally are in better shape than those north of the city, the wetness has hampered everyone.
“In Monroe County, where I’m based, only 65-70 percent of the corn has been planted,” he said. “Tupelo and north it’s much less.
“There’s a lot of corn that needs to be planted, but the problem is that the crop insurance deadline has passed.”
The deadline was Monday for those wanting full coverage against crop losses. Every day beyond the deadline means a smaller payment to farmers of they have to file a claim. Whether or not they want to take that chance is up to them.
Stokes said an extension of the deadline is possible, but a conversation with the USDA left him with the impression that it wasn’t likely.
“It doesn’t look good,” he said.
Monroe County grower Chip Henley has managed to get 1,000 of 1,200 acres of corn planted, but he’s worried about their condition. And that was before Wednesday’s storms brought additional downpours.
“We have about half up to a good sprout, but the other half is iffy because of the rain,” he said. “And it’s getting late for planting. We need a few days of dry weather, but right now we can’t even go back into the fields.”
If the weather wasn’t enough worry, skyrocketing input prices – such as fuel and fertilizer – have made times even tougher for growers. Those increased prices have been offset somewhat by the higher prices being paid of corn, cotton and soybeans.
But it doesn’t do any good if growers can’t get into their fields.
Lee County grower Jason Scruggs said his operations are “a little behind.”
“We just need to get things to dry up,” he said. “At this point, we should have about 3,000 to 4,000 acres of beans. If we can get in the fields in the next week or so, we should be OK.”
James Robison of Guntown is a small farmer with only 150 acres, but every acre counts. But, like so many other growers, he’s behind schedule.
“It’s been wet, and time’s running out to get corn planted,” he said. “Not only that, we can’t even prepare the fields and fertilize them.”
In addition to corn and soybeans, Robison also grows hay and said “we’ve got more cattle than anything.”
As for soybeans, he’s not too worried.
“I can go as far as June to plant,” he said, “but there’s few crops being planted in this area right now.”
More cotton expected
Growers will eventually get back into their fields, and Stokes expects a little more cotton planted this year since it’s selling at record prices. But having given way to corn and soybeans as the top crop in recent years, cotton won’t be king again anytime soon.
“We will have more cotton, but one thing preventing a lot more is that over the past five or six years, a lot of people have gotten out of cotton, no longer have the equipment for it,” he said. “So we’ll have more cotton, but not to the levels it once was.”
As for other crops, Stokes said wheat is growing well, along with peanuts.
But what everyone needs are a few days without rain.
“We really need two weeks of dry, good days,” he said. “They don’t need much time to plant, but they do need some dry days to get in the fields.”
Said Scruggs, “if we can get in the fields in the next week or so, we’ll be OK.”
The forecast for today and Monday, however, calls for chances of more rain.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal