From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
April and May are busy months on the farm, particularly for crop farmers. In some parts of the state, cool and wet weather has delayed planting for some crops, so as the weather has warmed, farmers are hustling to catch up and get crops in the ground.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a report on prospective plantings and it looks like North Carolina farmers will plant more acres of soybeans and fewer acres of corn this year.
If the forecast holds, farmers will plant 1.6 million acres of soybeans this year, 10 percent more than they planted in 2013. That is not the only crop expected to see an increase. Cotton, peanuts, tobacco and sweet potato production are also expected to rise, with increases ranging from 1 to 6 percent.
Cotton acreage is projected to be up by 470,000 acres or 1 percent. Peanut acreage is expected to total 83,000 acres, tobacco up by 183,800 acres, and sweet potatoes are expected to be up 6 percent or 61,000 acres.
Hay producers are expected to cut 900,000 acres in 2014, up 5 percent from 2013.
Corn and winter wheat are expected to be down. Corn plantings are projected to total 850,000 acres, a drop of 9 percent from last year. Winter wheat acreage, which has already been planted, is down 16 percent from last year, according to the USDA report.
A number of factors influence a farmer’s planting decisions, including input costs, world supply and demand for the crop and, of course, price. Last year, the average price for corn in March was $7.72 a bushel. This year in March, the average was $5.21 a bushel. That’s a pretty significant difference, especially when input costs have not gone down.
There has been a little more stability in soybean prices. Last year’s March average was $14.43 a bushel, and this year it was $14.23.
As with the start of every growing season, I hope for a good year. But I know I will need to manage challenges as they come along during the season. As I have said before, it is hard, but rewarding work. Farming has always given me a great deal of personal satisfaction and I am proud it remains our state’s No. 1 industry.
Be sure to visit our state -operated famers markets as well as your local markets to support North Carolina farmers. The markets are starting to bustle with activity as strawberries, blueberries and hot-house vegetables are coming to market. The selection will continue to get larger and larger as the summer wears on.
Remember when you want the best, it’s Got to Be NC Agriculture.