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November 30, 2001   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
November 30, 2001

Pike County farmers Frank Talbot, left, and Denny Perkins examine one of the best peanut crops the county has had in years.
"Montgomery, Ala." Most Alabama row crop farmers are enjoying their best harvest in years, thanks to summer rains that broke a three-year drought in most areas of the state.

"Yield wise and grade wise it's probably one of the best crops we've ever bought," said Pike County peanut farmer Frank Talbot. "Here in Pike County, we are probably going to end up averaging close to 3,000 pounds per acre."

But despite high yields, some farmers will barely pay their production costs this year. The reason: low prices.

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), corn prices are averaging $1.79 a bushel, up 5 cents from last year, and soybeans are bringing $4.10 a bushel, down 35 cents. The news is even worse for cotton. October lint prices averaged 34.4 cents a pound, down 21.1 cents from a year ago--the lowest monthly price since March 1975.

Meanwhile, peanut producers like Talbot are dealing with their own marketing woes. Although the guaranteed price for quota peanuts is $610 a ton, farmers may find it hard to sell their "additional" peanuts. Talbot said skepticism among buyers about the future of the peanut program dropped the contract additional price from $300-$350 a ton in recent years to $175-$250. And, if a farmer didn't contract his additionals, he could do no better than the federal support price of $132 a ton.

Still, in light of recent crop failures, Chris Adams of Covington County said 2001 has been a very good year.

"Compared to last year, this was a bumper crop," said the Alabama Farmers Federation's 2001 Outstanding Young Farmer in the peanut division. "Last year, I might have averaged 950 pounds of peanuts to the acre; cotton was somewhere around 350 pounds to the acre. This year, peanuts went close to a ton and a half an acre, and the cotton, so far, is picking between a bale and a half and two bales."

Stuart Sanderson, the Outstanding Young Farmer in the soybeans division also reported good yields.

"Every crop we had this time was excellent," Sanderson said. "These are the best cotton yields we've seen in several years--probably since 1996. We are averaging somewhere between a bale and a half and 2 bales an acre on most of our cotton. Wheat averaged close to 70 bushels per acre, and right now, the no-till beans we are harvesting are gathering somewhere between 45 and 55 bushels per acre."

And this year was another excellent year for corn. On 400 acres of corn, the state averaged 201 bushels, he said.

Statewide, NASS projects the cotton crop to top 920,000 bales, up from 543,000 bales last year. The average yield is expected to be 730 pounds per acre, 41 pounds shy of the 1985 record.

NASS predicts corn yields will set a new record at 114 bushels per acre for a total crop of 19.4 million bushels. Soybean yields are expected to average 32 bushels per acre, up 14 bushels.

Alabama's peanut forecast calls for a total crop of 510.3 million pounds on 189,000 acres. Yields are expected to hit the 2,700-pound mark, 1,210 pounds more than last year and the highest yield since 1985.

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