State ag industry pulls its weight

HED: State ag industry pulls its weight

LEAD-IN: Agriculture economists predict corn prices will greatly influence 2007 crops.

By Carlie Kollath

Daily Journal

Agriculture remains a strong presence in the state, despite the recent buzz caused by new industries such as Toyota Motor Co. near Blue Springs and SeverCorr in Columbus.

The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce reports that agriculture is a $5.8 billion industry in the state and provides 385,000 jobs, which is about 27 percent of the state’s workforce. In 2006, Mississippi was home to more than 11 million acres of farmland and about 18 million acres of forests.

Of the 42,200 farms in the Magnolia State, a little under half of the principal operators report their primary occupation is farming. The agriculture department also reported that the average Mississippi farmer is a white male about 57.2 years old. Eleven percent of Mississippi farmers are black and 12.4 percent of the farmers are female.

This year, Mississippi farmers are feeling the impact of the rising corn prices fueled by increasing ethanol production. From more expensive catfish feed to less acreage devoted to cotton, the growing attention to alternative fuels, including biodiesel, is having a ripple effect across almost all facets of Mississippi agriculture, as evidenced by the findings from Mississippi State University’s Department of Agricultural Economics.

Most notably is the effect it has on cotton, which the National Cotton Council of America estimates will lose about 24.5 percent of its acreage in Mississippi.

However, Lester Spell, the state’s agriculture commissioner, said he expects the upcoming crop year to “present many new and exciting opportunities for our farmers across all agricultural sectors.”

(Source for all factboxes: Mississippi State University Department of Agricultural Economics)

FACTSBOX1

Cotton and cottonseed

- Mississippi’s No. 1 value-of-production row crop commodity

- Mississippi produced 2.15 million bales of cotton on 1.230 million acres in 2006

- The bales were produced on 1,596 farms.

- The value of cotton production last year was $583 million.

- The 2007 price outlook for cotton is expected to improve slightly and average $0.55 per pound.

- Cotton acreage in Mississippi will likely be reduced by as much as 300,000 acres in 2007 because of increasing corn prices caused by growth in ethanol production.

FACTBOX2

Cattle and calves

- Mississippi had 1 million head of cattle and calves in 2006 on 21,000 farms

- The cattle and calves production was worth $217 million last year.

- Cattle prices hovered near record highs in 2006.

- The price outlook for cattle is uncertain, but it is expected to average $1.05 per pound for 500-pound stocker calves during 2007.

- Cattle and beef production will likely reduced by increased corn and feed costs caused by growing ethanol output.

FACTSBOX3

Soybeans

- Mississippi devotes more acres to soybean production than any other agricultural row crop

- The state produced 42.64 million bushels on 1.67 million acres on 3,034 farms in 2006.

- The 2006 value of soybean production was $246 million.

- The 2007 price outlook for soybeans is expected to improve substantially and average $7.15 per bushel.

- Soybean prices and markets will improve and be greatly influenced by the tremendous growth in corn prices and demand caused by escalating ethanol production.

FACTBOX3

Corn

- Mississippi produced 34.125 million bushels on 340,000 acres on 2,099 farms in 2006.

- The 2006 value of corn production was $94 million.

- Price outlook for corn is expected to improve significantly and average $3.95 per bushel during 2007.

- Tremendous growth in ethanol production will greatly influence corn prices, acreages and production.

- Sharp increases in corn prices will shift acres from other row crops, such as cotton and soybeans, to corn production in 2007.

FACTSBOX4

Sweet potatoes

- In 2006, Mississippi produced 4.93 million bushels on 18,000 acres on 103 farms.

- The 2006 value of sweet potato production was $74 million.

- The 2007 price outlook for sweet potatoes is expected to remain steady and average $15.00 per bushel.

- Exports of Mississippi sweet potatoes to Canada and Europe are predicted to grow during 2007.

FACTSBOX5

Poultry, broilers and eggs

- Mississippi’s No. 1 value-of-production agriculture commodity

- Last year, Mississippi produced 805 million broilers on 1,928 farms.

- The value of broiler, egg and chicken production in 2006 was $1,998 million.

- The price outlook for broilers is expected to improve in 2007 as production and supply slows down due to increasing feed costs.

- Exports of poultry and broilers forecasted to grow 3.4 percent in 2007 as the global avian flu scare diminishes

- Broiler production will likely slow down in 2007 due to increasing corn and feed costs caused by growth in ethanol production.

FACTSBOX6

Catfish and aquaculture

- Mississippi produced catfish in 96,000 acres of ponds on 308 farms in 2006.

- The 2006 catfish production was worth $273 million.

- The 2007 price outlook for catfish is expected to remain steady and average $0.80 per pound.

- Catfish production will be influenced by increasing corn and feed costs caused by growth in ethanol production.

FACTSBOX7

Peanuts

- In 2006, Mississippi produced 45 million pounds on 15,000 acres on 43 farms.

- The 2006 value of peanut production was $8 million.

- The 2007 price outlook for peanuts is expected to be above $355 per ton.

- Peanut acreage in Georgia and Alabama is anticipated to decline as more land is decline as more land is dedicated to corn production.

- Peanut prices and markets may be more influenced by the tremendous growth in ethanol production.