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November 06, 2003   Email to Friend 

STATE CROPS COULD BE BEST IN RECENT YEARS
Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
November 06, 2003

For the first time in years, harvest season gave most Alabama farmers something to smile about. Crops are good and so are the prices -- a rare combination for most Alabama producers. Toss in the fact that beef prices are near an all-time high, and it's easy to understand why they're smiling.

But the year didn't start out that way. Heavy spring rains delayed planting for many cotton and peanut farmers, causing them to wonder if they'd ever get their crop in the ground. And even though some of them planted their crops three times to get them established, yields and grades were good in most cases.

The state's four major row crops -- cotton, peanuts, corn and soybeans -- produced better than average harvests this year. But for cotton farmers it's the price, which is the best it's been for several years, that most raised their hopes.

Alabama farmers planted 560,000 acres of cotton this year and harvested about 510,000 acres.

Daniel G. "T-Bone" Taylor of Tallassee describes his crop as "excellent" in both grade and yield.

Taylor planted about 600 acres of cotton on his Elmore County farm. He's one of those farmers who planted cotton three times in some fields before he ever got a stand. Then the rains continued and he was worried it would ruin his crop. But the weather broke and transformed the crop into the best he's had in recent years, he said.

"I think we made so much because of the rain we got early on and because of the variety of cotton we planted," Taylor said. "The size of the bolls and the height of the plants are excellent. But I think a lot of it has to do with this rich land close to the (Tallapoosa) river." Statewide yields are estimated at 753 pounds per acre, well above the state average of 542 pounds for the past 10 years. Some farmers have harvested as much as 1,000 pounds per acre. And farmers were paid an average price of 50-60 cents per pound, almost twice what they received just two years ago.

Most peanut growers in Alabama have finished harvesting their crop and estimates are that they'll harvest about 2,900 pounds per acre -- 783 pounds more than the 10-year average. A reduction in the acreage planted nationwide helped keep prices consistent, and a new federal marketing loan program gave farmers more opportunities to increase their profits.

Farmers who planted soybeans expect yields of 31 bushels an acre, about five more bushels than the 10-year average. While prices fluctuate, soybean prices for December have been about $1.80 per bushel more than last year.

The wet spring and summer translated into a record corn crop for the state where an average of 112 bushels per acre were harvested -- about 30 bushels above average. However, corn production was up nationwide, which has caused prices to drop nearly 40 cents, a bushel lower than last year.


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