Due to market forces, cotton ravels, beans run

n Crop prices and costs change planting practices.
By Mack Spencer
CALHOUN CITY – It’s been a while since cotton was king, but the plant of soft, fluffy bolls is barely hanging on to an earldom these days.
In recent years, amp”in Sunflower County, there were 138,000 acres of cotton planted,amp” county Farm Service Agency director J. Derek Adams told the Calhoun City Rotary Club last week. amp”Last year, there were 6,500 acres of cotton in Sunflower County.amp”
That was the most recent indignity for a crop which last year had zero or very few acres planted in nearby Pontotoc and Tippah counties.
Cotton hasn’t fallen quite that far in Calhoun County, but the downward slide is on. Just 10,843 acres of cotton were planted here in 2008, down from more than 17,000 acres in 2007.
Soybeans took up cotton’s slack and then some, climbing from about 10,000 acres to almost 19,000 last year.
Corn and the county’s signature crop, sweet potatoes, held steady. A little more than 7,000 acres of corn were planted in 2008, and more than 9,000 acres of sweet potatoes; both crops’ acreages were slightly less than the previous year.
Nothing more than economics has pushed much of the changes in crop choice.
The United States Department of Agriculture and universities like Mississippi State forecast the costs of producing major crops each year. This year’s USDA forecast projects a cost of $350 per acre for soybeans, while cotton is projected to cost $706 per acre to produce.
Corn falls between those crops, at $546 per acre, while peanuts outstrip most other crops with a cost projection of $874 per acre.
Corn and soybeans remain decently competitive against their production prices with futures prices of $4.04 and $9.51, respectively, as of Monday. Cotton, however, depends on high yields to be profitable at the Farm Bill’s subsidy price of 52 cents per pound.
Still, cotton is hanging tough as one of the county’s crops of choice, thanks to the attitudes of farmers like one Adams told the Rotarians of.
amp”He said, ‘I don’t figure things like Mississippi State does,’amp” Adams said.

Mack Spencer

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