State's crop value hits record high

By Linda Breazeale | Mississippi State University

STARKVILLE – Mississippi’s agricultural commodities are predicted to reach a record-high value of more than $6.7 billion for 2011.
Mississippi State University Extension Service economists compiled the numbers from poultry, forestry, agronomic crops, catfish and livestock for the annual value estimate. If government payments are factored in, the state’s value of production reaches $7 billion for the first time in history.
Extension agricultural economist John Michael Riley said the record is a result of high yields and strong market prices for most commodities in 2011.
“Livestock and the major row crops had strong markets during the year,” Riley said. “But farmers did not get a break in the cost of production.”
The biggest changes occurred in some of the smaller crops. Compared to 2010, the No. 15 crop – grain sorghum – is predicted to increase 653 percent in value. The No. 10 crop – wheat – will increase 492 percent in value. Cotton will increase 63 percent, and corn will increase 42 percent.
“A minor acreage change in a smaller crop will look like a big change,” said Erick Larson, Extension small grains specialist. “Growers planted 52,000 acres of grain sorghum and averaged 75 bushels per acre, which were significant increases from 2010.”
Larson said drought conditions in 2010 prompted growers to increase their acreage of grain sorghum because it is more drought-tolerant than corn. Corn acres also increased from 750,000 to 820,000 in 2011, but yields declined from an average of 136 bushels per acre in 2010 to 118 bushels per acre in 2011.
“The 2011 corn crop had a stressful – hot and dry – year. From mid-May through July, corn is more susceptible to drought stress. The high nighttime temperatures in June reduced yields of even irrigated corn. Plus, we lost about 40,000 acres to Mississippi River flooding and backwater,” Larson said.
Corn ranked fifth among the state’s agricultural commodities.
“For wheat, prices were a big reason for increased acreage. If the fall had not been so dry in 2010 and more seed had been available, growers might have planted even more,” he said. “Farmers planted 360,000 acres of winter wheat and averaged a record 64 bushels per acre. Both were increases over 2010.”
Wheat’s 2011 estimated value is $127 million. Larson predicts wheat acreage to exceed 400,000 for the coming season.
Cotton lint is posting a 60 percent increase, and cotton seed is posting an 88 percent increase in value. Mississippi growers planted 630,000 acres and averaged 952 pounds per acre. In 2010, they planted 420,000 acres and averaged 993 pounds per acre, which was the second highest yield on record.
At No. 6, catfish is expected to post a 2 percent increase to $222 million. Stockers declined 31 percent, but catfish, fingerlings and fry increased between 3 and 5 percent.