From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
Every so often I like to talk about the work of one of the divisions of the department to help people understand some of the services and programs offered.
A recent release of end-of-year crop information got me thinking about the work of the Agricultural Statistics Division.
This group collects agricultural data throughout the year that is then compiled into a number of periodic reports. These reports give a picture of agricultural production across the state, by commodity, by region and at a county level.
Longtime farmers and agribusiness operators are probably pretty used to the phone calls and visits from enumerators who collect their production information. The individual information is strictly confidential, but used to put together the bigger industry picture. We are fortunate to have strong cooperation and support from producers and agribusiness.
The service has been provided by the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services since 1919. This collection and sharing of agricultural statistics began in 1863 and is one of the oldest USDA activities.
This information is important because it can help farmers make decisions about what crops to grow, can provide verifiable production numbers in helping determine government programs and assistance, and also helps validate the impact of agriculture at the local, regional, state or national level and provide a historical perspective.
Throughout the year, we get asked a lot of questions about the value of certain crops, or how much agriculture contributes to local economies, and I am glad we have folks collecting and producing this information.
As I mentioned, I was looking at a recent release on yearly crop production estimates. This year cotton, peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes are estimated to have record or record-tying yields, which is impressive.
Sweet potato growers had a strong year overall, both in yield per acre and in overall production. Total production is a record 9.4 million hundred weight, 8 percent above the previous record set in 2008. The yield was 200 hundred weight per acre, up from 190 in 2008.
Cotton yield is estimated to be 986 pounds per acre, up from the 2008 yield of 847 pounds per acre. Total production figures to be 760,000 bales, up 1 percent from 2008.
Both soybeans and peanuts are expected to tie record yields. Peanut yield per acre is expected to be 3,700 pounds, equal to the record in 2008. For soybeans, the yield estimate is 34 bushels per acre, equal to the record set in 2004.
Farmers are starting to make decisions on what to grow in 2010, so this information along with commodity prices will play into their decision making.
To find the latest agricultural statistic releases, go to www.ncagr.gov/stats/.