Steve Rogers

About Steve Rogers

Assistant News Director/Assignment Editor; degree in finance and administration from Yale University; 35 years experience in journalism.

Crop Updates: Poultry, Soybeans, Corn, Timber and More

20131219_overall_chart_4C_300By Linda Breazeale/MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE — Mississippi’s top two agricultural commodities — poultry and forestry — maintained their strength in 2013, but most agronomic crop values took a hit from significantly lower prices than those earned in 2012.

John Michael Riley, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said agronomic crop prices were a major drag in the state’s total agricultural commodity value despite good-to-great production levels.

“In 2012, when most of the nation’s farmland was experiencing a major drought, Mississippi farmers were able to produce very good yields,” he said. “While yields were down across the country, our growers were able to capitalize on the higher prices.”

For perspective, Riley has charted out estimated agricultural commodity values for 2013 compared to the previous year and the five-year average. The estimated $7.35 billion is 4 percent less than 2012’s total value, but 11 percent more than the five-year average.

Poultry and forestry…

“The total decline in value would have been greater if poultry and forestry had not showed as much improvement from one year to the next,” he said. “2012 was more of an anomaly with respect to crops.”

Poultry, the state’s No. 1 agricultural commodity, is estimated at $2.7 billion, which is 10 percent more than in 2012 and 13 percent more than the five-year average. Forestry, the state’s No. 2 crop, is valued at $1.17 billion, an increase of almost 15 percent from 2012 and 17 percent above the five-year average.

Perspective…

“The five-year average is also a good gauge of the industries that are on the rise as well as those that are declining,” he said.

Riley said drastic differences from one year to the next can be due to factors out of the control of industry participants, especially in agricultural production.

“Comparisons to the five-year average provide better context with respect to an industry’s general direction, as can be seen in values for the state’s No. 3 and 4 crops: soybeans and corn,” he said.

The soybean value is estimated at $993 million, down 21 percent from 2012 but up 14 percent on the five-year average. Soybean yields averaged 43 bushels per acre, just below the previous year’s record of 45 bushels per acre. Corn, which set a new record with 180 bushels per acre, has an estimated value of $631 million, down 31 percent from 2012 but up 18 percent on the five-year average.

Some of the biggest value reductions over the last five years include a 26 percent decline in rice, a 21 percent decline in cotton lint and a 12 percent decline in catfish. In addition to poultry, forestry and corn, the largest trending increases in the state’s main crops include 30 percent in livestock and 25 percent in hay.

Rice…

Tim Walker, rice specialist at MSU’s Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said Mississippi growers started reducing their acreage from the 20-year average in 2011, but 2013 was an excellent year for rice. The rice value estimate was $141 million.

“Growers planted just a few thousand acres less than the year before, but our final average yields should be a state record,” he said. “2012’s average was 7,200 pounds per acre, and we should have at least 7,500 pounds per acre in 2013. We are down significantly on the five-year average value because of how many more acres we used to plant. In recent years, we have planted about 50 percent of the typical acreage.”

Walker said two strong years will motivate growers to expand rice acres in 2014. Mississippi farmers could plant nearly 200,000 acres in rice, compared with 130,000 acres in 2013.

Cotton…

Another crop expected to post record yields in 2013 and gain ground in 2014 is cotton. Each positive factor comes after years of reduced acres. Mississippi growers planted nearly a million or significantly more acres of cotton each year until 2007. In 2013, the state harvested 295,000 acres. Cotton lint was estimated at about $262 million and cotton seed at about $69 million, for a total value of $331 million.

“We just harvested 1,188 pounds of cotton per acre, beating our previous yield record of 1,024 pounds per acre in 2004,” said Darrin Dodds, Extension cotton specialist.

“We got a late start with a long, cold and wet spring, but then the weather provided just what the crop needed,” he said. “It was warm during the summer but not oppressively hot, especially at night. The hottest weeks of the year were late in the summer when it needed to finish out the late crop. We also got some timely rains.”

Catfish…

Jimmy Avery, Extension aquaculture specialist and director of the Southern Regional Aquaculture Center in Stoneville, said U.S. catfish processing numbers are projected to be up about 10 percent from 2012. This is the first significant increase in production since 2002. He said the recent trend of reducing pond acreage appears to be near its conclusion.

“We lost about 2,600 acres from 2012 to 2013. Most of those ponds were used for fingerlings, leaving a larger percentage of food fish acreage for 2013,” he said. “That change could eventually result in a shortage of stocker fish.”

Avery said some consumers chose cheaper foreign imports in 2011, when catfish supplies were tight and retail prices of catfish increased about 50 percent. The shortage peaked in late 2011 and early 2012.

“Now that our supply has stabilized and more consumers are requesting U.S. products, our markets are returning,” he said. “Farmers are finding a way to intensify production and be more efficient. They are ending the year much more optimistic about profit potential in 2014.”

The 2013 crop value estimate placed catfish, the state’s No. 7 crop, at $178 million.

Livestock…

Riley said the improvement in livestock’s value from recent years can be attributed to significant increases in hogs and moderate improvement in cattle, both offsetting decreases in dairy. The agricultural economist estimated hog values to be 66 percent higher than the five-year average. Individual livestock values for 2013 are $289 million for cattle and calves, $144 million for hogs and $40 million for dairy.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture showed a significant increase in the state’s sow numbers in 2012, but the bulk of that increase did not start producing litters until 2013, causing the jump in production,” Riley said. “Beef cattle declined a bit due to smaller numbers, mostly feeder cattle of which we saw a significant increase in 2012 due to drought in other parts of the U.S. The dairy industry continued to decline and is off the five-year average by 11 percent.”

Hay…

Mississippi posted another strong year of forage production, and the estimated value of hay for 2013 is $157 million. That total for the state’s No. 8 crop is 15 percent more than in the previous year and 25 percent better than the five-year average.

Other 2013 crop values and their percentage changes from the five-year averages included wheat at $126 million, up 24 percent; specialty crops at $115 million, up 23 percent; sweet potatoes at $69 million, up 17 percent; peanuts at $23 million, down 11 percent; and grain sorghum at $12 million, down 11 percent.

The report also factored government payments into the state’s agricultural value. For 2013, the state’s farmers received $220 million, which was close to the amount received in the previous year. The total is 28 percent less than the five-year average.

“Most prices are above the levels set in the 2008 Farm Bill, so there are fewer payments needing to be paid to farmers,” Riley said. “Most of this was related to direct payments, which will be phased out in the upcoming bill, and subsidies on crop insurance premiums.”

By Bonnie Coblentz/MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE — Corn retained its No. 4 spot in Mississippi agriculture with an estimated value of $631 million, despite a 31 percent decrease in value caused mostly by reduced commodity prices.

Corn trails behind the state’s top three agricultural commodities: No. 1 poultry, with an estimated value of $2.7 billion; No. 2 forestry, $1.17 billion; and No. 3 soybeans, $993 million.

Corn also set a new Mississippi production record with an estimated average yield of 180 bushels per acre. Mississippi growers harvested about 815,000 acres of corn in 2013, although they had intended to plant their largest corn acreage in the last 40 years.

John Michael Riley, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the value decrease is primarily the result of prices that dropped more than $2 a bushel.

“Corn’s projected average price for the state is $4.40 a bushel, down from $6.89 a bushel received in 2012,” Riley said.

Corn prices started in the range of $6 to $6.50 but fell sharply in June and July when it became apparent that the nation’s crop would break records.

“The drop midyear was a result of increased production, which will remove the very tight supply situation the market has been in for the past few years,” he said.

Erick Larson, Extension grain crops agronomist, said the record per-acre yield is a reflection of the outstanding 2013 growing season.

“We had very favorable, cool, nighttime temperatures in June and July, as well as some rainfall that helped out with irrigation and replenishing soil moisture deficiencies at key times of the year,” Larson said.

“Unfortunately, the persistent rainfall this spring substantially limited corn planting,” he said. “Most of Mississippi was affected, but corn plantings were drastically reduced in northern counties, where many dryland acres were planted to soybeans rather than corn.

“Most of the corn in the state was planted the first 25 days of March,” he said. “From then until early May, there were very few opportunities to plant. A lot of the acres that were intended for corn, but never planted, were dryland acres. The state’s per-acre yield in 2013 is more reflective of irrigated yields.

“In Mississippi, irrigated land normally produces yields of 50 to 100 bushels of corn more per acre than does nonirrigated land,” he said.

Larson said fully one-third of the nation’s corn crop is used in ethanol production, a demand that has reduced much of the corn crop carried over from year to year.

“There is some profitability in the production of U.S.-based fuels,” he said. “A lot of farmers are actually part owners in ethanol cooperatives. It’s another alternative for them to generate some income from their surplus agricultural products.”

Brian Williams, an Extension agricultural economist, said the entire national corn crop set a production record, and next year’s numbers are expected to be almost as high.

“Demand for corn is increasing, and exports are supporting prices despite the higher production,” Williams said.

By Keri Collins Lewis/MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE – Mississippi’s forest products bounced back into the No. 2 spot in the state’s list of agricultural commodities based on annual production values.

James Henderson, associate Extension professor in the Mississippi State University College of Forest Resources, estimated the state’s forest products 2013 harvest value to be $1.17 billion, compared to the 2012 value of $1.02 billion. That is a 14.6 percent increase over the 2012 harvest. Final figures will be available in February.

Notably, the 2013 harvest value is 34.9 percent higher than the 2009 harvest value of $864.9 million, which was the lowest valued harvest year since the recession of 2007 to 2009.

“The increase can be attributed to several factors, including an increase in timber harvesting because of slightly higher prices,” Henderson said. “Severance taxes collected on timber sales are up 4.4 percent as of October, compared to the same period for 2012.”

Henderson reported stumpage for pine pulpwood is up 19.9 percent, hardwood pulpwood is up 32.6 percent, pine sawtimber is up 4.2 percent, oak sawtimber is up 11.6 percent and mixed hardwood sawtimber is up 11.6 percent.

The demand for Mississippi’s forest products is tied to the U.S. housing market, especially new home construction. Though the recent spike in mortgage interest rates cooled the housing market somewhat, Henderson expects continued growth in the housing market and the overall economy.

“The trend remains positive — housing starts are 19 percent higher than this time in 2012,” he said.

Existing and new home sales are also on an upward trend. Compared to the end of 2012, existing home sales are up 11 percent and new home sales are up 13 percent.

With inventories of homes for sale still below those typically found in a healthy housing market, new home construction is expected to increase in 2014.

Henderson said the closure of the International Paper mill in Courtland, Ala. has implications for the pulpwood market in north Mississippi.

“Given the capacity of the International Paper mill, demand in part of north Mississippi probably will be cut by at least half,” Henderson said.

David Jones, forest products specialist with the MSU Extension Service and associate professor in the MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center’s Department of Sustainable Bioproducts, said he expects 2014 to be on par with 2013.

“2013 has been good for forest products, an upswing year, and I expect to see a continual increase in the state’s lumber production,” Jones said. “We had a couple of mills close, but one is scheduled to reopen in 2014 after a change in ownership.”

The biofuels industry remains an unknown factor.

“No one is sure what the impact of the biofuels industry will be, other than the creation of some additional jobs,” Jones said. “A couple of biofuels companies are entering the market in the state, and they started construction and research in 2013. They may be up and operating by mid-2014.”

An increase in domestic demand fueled the industry in 2013, while the export market remained stable. Jones said most of the export growth has been in the Asian markets.

“We sold some logs to China early in 2013, but it’s not as big of a market for us as for the West Coast because of transportation costs,” he said. “Many Asian countries are starting to use more wood in their construction practices, so we may see more growth in that sector.”

As with other agricultural products, weather will determine the next few months’ activity.

“Mills are keeping appropriate amounts of inventory in stock now, but we could see a repeat of what happened in early 2013, when it was too wet for loggers to get trees out of the woods and sawmills had to shut down,” Jones said. “So we’ll be watching the weather to see if the hardwood mills can sustain lumber production through the winter.”

Forest products have been listed in the top three most valuable agricultural commodities in the state for more than 25 years. This year forest products are second only to the poultry industry’s $2.72 billion predicted year-end value.

By Bonnie Coblentz/MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE — Soybeans continued their reign in 2013 as the state’s biggest row crop, posting an estimated value of $993 million, down 21 percent from 2012.

Poultry holds the state’s top spot in agricultural production, with an estimated 2013 value of $2.7 billion. Forestry is No. 2, with an estimated value of $1.2 billion, while soybeans come in third in the ranking of the state’s top agricultural commodities.

Although the value is down from the previous year, acreage is a bit up, said Trent Irby, soybean specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. The average per-acre yield is expected to be 43 bushels, just slightly below the record average yield of 45 bushels an acre set in 2012.

“As of Nov. 1, Mississippi was projected to harvest nearly 2 million acres of soybeans in 2013,” Irby said. “Based on these estimates, this would be a 1.5 percent increase in soybean acreage from 2012.”

Soybeans had a late start in 2013, with frequent rains and low temperatures preventing planting in many areas around state during April and much of May. Although more acres than usual had to be replanted, producers adapted to their circumstances and did what they could to make the best crop.

“We did have some favorable weather in the late summer and early fall that allowed the crop to catch up quite a bit and remain strong, despite the late start,” he said. “We had more acreage that had to be replanted than we typically do, and in some cases, multiple replants were needed to get an optimal stand.”

Despite the increased acreage and high yields, lower soybean prices caused the drop in overall value.

“This is mostly a price-driven result, as Mississippi’s projected soybean price of $12.50 is less than the $14.40 average price received in 2012,” said John Michael Riley, Extension agricultural economist. “Prices for the coming year are expected to drop even lower, with predictions of $11.50 to $12.50.”

Brian Williams, Extension agricultural economist, said strong demand has helped to offset the price lull just a bit, although at lower levels than seen in 2012.

“Looking ahead, we’ll be watching Brazil and Argentina,” Williams said. “Their crops look good now, so that may be influencing the prediction of lower prices in the near future.”

With prices still good, Williams predicted Mississippi growers will increase the number of soybean acres planted in 2014. Irby said cropping intentions often depend on the market, and a lot can change between winter and the spring planting season.

“As long as market prices remain favorable for our soybean producers, I expect that Mississippi’s 2014 soybean acreage will be pretty consistent with what we’ve had the last couple of years,” Irby said.