Alabama farmers are expected to plant more corn and soybeans this year, which follows a national trend driven partially by higher profit potential for those crops.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture report shows Alabama farmers intend to plant 330,000 acres of corn, up 20,000 acres from last year. Soybean acreage is expected to reach 410,000 acres, up 21 percent from 340,000 acres in 2012.
Meanwhile, the report predicts a drop in cotton and peanut acreage. Alabama farmers are expected to plant 360,000 acres of cotton, down 20,000 acres from 2012, and 150,000 acres of peanuts, down 70,000 acres.
Brothers Richard and Lane Holladay of Lowndes County started their spring planting in early April. Commodity prices and crop rotation determine what and how much they plant.
“Grain prices have been strong, especially for the past couple of years,” said Richard, who is president of the Lowndes County Farmers Federation. “Last year, we probably sold some of our highest wheat, corn and soybeans ever. Prices have gone down some since then, but that was expected. With so many acres being planted across the country, you can expect prices to drop, but it’s a long time until harvest.”
Though corn and soybean acreage have consistently increased the past three years, Alabama Farmers Federation Wheat and Feed Grains Director Buddy Adamson said it’s difficult to project if the trend will continue.
“For Alabama, the acreage of corn and soybeans will depend on the prices relative to cotton and peanuts, as well as crop rotation and moisture availability during the respective planting season for each crop,” Adamson said.
The Holladays grow a variety of grains in addition to raising cattle, poultry and timber. Last year, their corn crop suffered from too much rain rather than drought that much of the country experienced. Still, Richard said he is hopeful prices will be good for this year’s crop.
“Even though prices have been strong, we’re basically working on the same (profit) margins we have had for the past several years,” he said. “Our input costs, especially fertilizer and fuel, have steadily increased.”
Alabama farmers planted more winter wheat this year, according to the USDA report, but hay, oats and sweet potato acreage will decrease. Additional crop planting intentions for Alabama include: Winter Wheat — Up 18 percent from 2012 to 260,000 seeded acres
Hay — Down 10,000 acres from 2012 to 850,000 harvested acres
Oats — Down 10,000 acres from 2012 to 50,000 acres
Sweet Potatoes — Down 200 acres from 2012 to 2,500 acres
Nationally, farmers are preparing to plant 97.3 million acres of corn, one of the largest crops in history, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). If realized, this year’s corn planting would be the largest acreage since 1936, when 102 million acres were planted.
Good weather and good prices have farmers eager to get in the fields, Richard said.
“Once the temperature starts warming up, it’s a busy time,” he said. “It’s hard to hold back. We’re ready to get things growing.”
For more information, visit nass.usda.gov.
Click here to view a video highlighting Alabama farmers' spring planting season.