MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Acreage changes, strong yields and high prices combined to push Mississippi agriculture's value of production to a record $5.9 billion in 2007.
John Anderson, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said poultry, the state's top agricultural commodity, posted significant gains -- up 20 percent -- to help push the overall value of Mississippi agriculture to new levels.
“After a bit of a down year in 2006 from a weaker global demand, broiler values bounced back sharply in 2007. With higher prices and slightly higher production expected when final 2007 numbers are tallied, broiler value should top $2 billion for just the second time in history,” he said. “Egg prices soared in 2007. Consequently, the value of egg production is expected to be up by more than 50 percent from the previous year.”
Marc Measells, a forestry researcher with MSU's College of Forest Resources, said forestry, the state's other billion-dollar crop, dropped 8 percent, due in part to a poor housing market and lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina. “Once the housing market starts to increase, timber markets will move back up within a few months to a year,” Measells said.
Anderson said Mississippi's agronomic crops posted a 46 percent increase for a total of almost $2 billion. Those crops include soybeans, corn, cotton, rice, hay, wheat, grain sorghum, sweet potatoes, peanuts and horticultural crops.
“Despite a second consecutive drought year, timely rains were enough to boost most crop yields,” he said. “Prices for major row crops were also much better in 2007 -- with corn, soybean and wheat prices challenging historic records at times.”
From 2006 to 2007, average soybean yields increased from 26 bushels per acre to 41 bushels, and cotton yields increased from 829 pounds per acre to 975 pounds.
Anderson said Mississippi's corn growers saw a year to remember when they planted 180 percent more acres, harvested 25 more bushels per acre and received market prices averaging 15 percent higher than the previous year.
Significant acreage changes also contributed to drastic value increases in wheat and grain sorghum.
“Grain sorghum yields and prices are likely to be a little higher than in 2006, but the 942 percent value increase can be attributed mainly to growers planting 10 times as much as they did the previous year,” Anderson said.
“The late spring freeze hurt wheat yields, but growers had planted 335 percent more acres than in 2006, going from 85,000 acres to more than 370,000 acres. At the same time, prices were much better,” he said. “The increase in acreage and price resulted in a 514 percent value increase for wheat to reach an estimated $93 million value.”
A sharp decline in cotton acres -- from 1.21 million acres in 2006 to 660,000 in 2007 --caused a 21 percent loss in crop value for the year.
“Cotton prices were actually a little higher than in 2006. Cottonseed prices were significantly higher. Yields were strong despite the drought and reached 975 pounds per acre, compared to 829 pounds in 2006,” Anderson said.
Other agronomic crop values include rice at $144 million, up 19 percent; hay at $102 million, down 4 percent; horticultural/other crops at $100 million, up 4 percent; sweet potatoes at $80 million, up 64 percent; and peanuts at $12 million, up 52 percent.
Catfish, the state's pride and palatable joy, is expected to decline about 15 percent in farm value in 2007.
Extension aquaculture specialist James Steeby said pond-bank prices and demand have been down while feed prices have been up.
“Pond-bank prices dropped from 85 cents per pound to 65 cents per pound the last half of 2007,” Steeby said. “Producers are paying more than $300 per ton for feed when they had been paying $240 or so. It is hard on producers when the market is down and feed, which makes up half their budget, is higher.”
Steeby said growers are hoping demand will pick up in the spring, since consumption normally declines in the fall and then improves throughout the spring season of Lent.
Livestock's total value changed slightly, down 1 percent. Of that total, hogs and cattle are expected to decline the most, 9 percent and 6 percent, respectively. The value of milk production is forecast to increase 29 percent.
Anderson said government payments are expected to be down by almost 30 percent.
“This decline is not unexpected since it largely reflects the effect of higher commodity prices since last fall,” he said.