Production of many North Carolina crops lower than a year ago
Production of corn, hay, apples, peaches, grapes and soybeans is down in North Carolina, and the weather is to blame.
“It’s quickly turning into a bad year for many North Carolina crops,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s August crop production report.
“The damage caused by the Easter freeze is being magnified by the extreme heat and drought. And if we don’t get some rain soon, the situation is only going to get worse.”
This year’s corn crop was expected to be the largest in decades. Boosted by good prices and nationwide interest in ethanol production, N.C. farmers planted 1.1 million acres of corn. But the lack of rain has stunted growth, and extreme temperatures are wilting plants. Corn yields in the state are forecast at 94 bushels per acre, a drop of 38 bushels per acre from last year. This year’s yield is the lowest since 2002.
Total N.C. corn production is down 1 percent from a year ago, but only because so much more corn was planted this year, Troxler said.
Another crop of concern is hay. Production is estimated at 1.4 million tons, 15 percent less than last year. Yield is forecast at 2 tons per acre, compared with 2.4 tons per acre in 2006. The hay yield is also the lowest since 2002.
“If this drought keeps up, farmers won’t have enough hay to feed livestock this winter,” Troxler said. “They’re going to face a tough decision of paying high costs to bring in hay from other states or selling some of their animals early. Some farmers are already doing that.”
North Carolina’s apple, peach and grape crops were already in bad shape because of the freeze. Apple production is forecast at 50 million pounds this year, compared with 173 million pounds a year ago.
Peach production is estimated at 1,000 tons, down 82 percent from last year. Grape production is forecast at 3,500 tons, a 24 percent drop from last year.
The apple and peach crops are the smallest since 1955, according to USDA data.
One crop that does not appear to have been significantly hurt by the weather is tobacco. Production in the state is estimated at 368 million pounds, an 11 percent increase over last year.
The USDA crop production report is based on surveys of farmers completed on Aug. 1. Additional reports will be issued in September, October and November. The full report is available at www.nass.usda.gov/.