From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
I periodically write about divisions and programs within the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in my column, and this month I want to talk about some of the information the Agricultural Statistics Division reports.
While Ag Statistics is technically a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, its staff work in our downtown Raleigh office through an ongoing cooperative agreement.
They collect data from farmers and put out a series of reports each year on planting intentions, crop updates, weather conditions and projected yields. This information can help farmers make the best decisions on what to plant, when to market their crops and what the outlook for the crop may be.
The latest crop report, which came out Aug. 12, offers insight into anticipated production for certain crops.
We had been hearing from staff and others in the field that corn looked strong this year. The statistics report forecasts a corn yield of 130 bushels per acre, with total production over 122 million bushels. That would push production up 48 percent from the 2015 total of 82.5 million bushels.
As is typical in this stage of the growing season, weather will likely be the greatest factor in whether or not production meets expectations. We have heard from some of our regional agronomists about dry conditions that are affecting crops, particularly in the far western parts of the state. But some farms in the Piedmont and East are beginning to see heat-related stress to crops also.
Cotton is also on pace for a good year, with a yield forecast of 943 pounds per acre. That would be 230 pounds per acre better than in 2015, with production topping out at 560,000 bales.
Soybean production is anticipated to be up slightly from 2015 at 57.6 million bushels; the yield forecast is 36 bushels per acre.
Similarly, peanuts are looking at a slight increase in production with the planting of fewer acres being offset by an increase in yield. The expected production will be around 300 million pounds, with yield at 3,800 pounds per acre.
On my travels across the state, I have seen some good- looking tobacco and I have also seen some that looked a little farther behind in growth. Overall, production is expected to be down about 4 percent from 2015, with total production expected to come in around 363 million pounds.
The apple crop also looks strong this year, with farmers expected to harvest 5 million more pounds this year compared to last. Total production is forecast at 110 million pounds.
The peach crop hasn’t fared as well, which was expected because of a late spring freeze. The statistics report projects production down 31 percent from 2015.
I hope you will make use of the reports from Agricultural Statistics. You can find reports, along with information from the Census of Agriculture, online at www.ncagr.gov/stats/latest.htm.