Mississippi producers plan for more corn, less cotton

Mississippi producers plan
for more corn, less cotton

By Bonnie Coblentz
MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE ­ Corn is the anticipated biggest winner and cotton the
biggest loser as Mississippi producers shuffle commodity acres to take
advantage of market conditions.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its prospective plantings report
March 28. In it, the state¹s corn acreage is predicted to reach 1.05 million
acres, a 28 percent increase from the 820,000 acres planted in 2012. Cotton
is expected to drop to 270,000 acres, a 43 percent decrease from last year.
Soybean acreage remains relatively unchanged, and this commodity continues
to command the largest portion of the state¹s row-crop acreage.

John Michael Riley, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State
University Extension Service, said market price is a major factor
influencing producers¹ decisions.

³The market is in a state of flux, but corn and soybeans appear to remain in
the driver¹s seat, despite their prices tumbling since the first of the
year,² Riley said. ³Cotton prices have advanced, but not enough to keep it
from losing significant acreage.²

Prices this spring are similar to prices last spring, but nowhere near the
levels seen at harvest in 2012.

³No one could have foreseen the widespread drought that would eventually
encompass more than 85 percent of the contiguous United States,² Riley said.
³Mississippi was spared for the most part, and local producers were able to
take advantage of higher prices at harvest. But, the likelihood of that
happening again is rather low.²

Riley said corn and soybean supplies are very tight nationally, helping keep
prices good for these commodities. Even so, production costs for fuel,
fertilizer and machinery are either steady or higher than last year, which
continues to pressure farm profits.

³The success of last year¹s excellent corn crop is driving acreage decisions
this year,² said Erick Larson, Extension corn and wheat specialist.

As of March 24, the state¹s corn crop was 37 percent planted, which was well
above the five-year average of 21 percent planted this early in the season.
Rains the last week of March slowed field work after that point.

Darrin Dodds, Extension cotton specialist, said potential profits and pest
management costs weigh heavily on cotton planting decisions every year.
These factors do not add up favorably for cotton.

³The decrease to less than 300,000 acres is caused by potentially poor
profits from cotton production compared to those of grain crops, as well as
the challenges associated with cotton production,² Dodds said. ³The acres
leaving cotton are going primarily to corn, but soybeans are expected to
pick some up as well.²

USDA predicts soybean acreage in Mississippi will drop 20,000 acres, or 1
percent, to 1.95 million acres in 2013.

Trent Irby, Extension soybean specialist, said producers¹ recent experience
with strong prices and good yields are encouraging them to plant many acres
of this crop.

³If weather prohibits timely planting in early spring, soybeans often pick
up additional acres when producers switch from a planned crop to
later-planted soybeans,² Irby said.

Winter wheat saw an 8 percent increase in acreage to 400,000 acres planted
for a 2013 harvest, but the rest of the state¹s major crops face declines.

Rice acreage is expected to fall slightly to 120,000 acres, down 8 percent
from last year. Sorghum is expected to drop 6 percent to 45,000 acres, and
hay acres are anticipated to drop 5 percent to 710,000 acres. USDA predicts
sweet potato acreage will dip 8 percent to 22,000 acres, but the crop will
remain solidly in second place nationally behind North Carolina.