Farmers to plant less cotton, more peanuts

Published 4:00 am Thursday, April 2, 2015

Alabama farmers expect to plant fewer acres of cotton and corn and devote more land to peanuts, according to the Prospective Plantings Report released Tuesday by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service NASS.

Predictions are that Alabama’s total cotton acreage will drop 14 percent this year, to 300,000 acres, and corn acreage will fall 10 percent to 270,000 acres. Farmers plan to shift some of that acreage to soybeans, which are expected to be up 1 percent to 490,000 acres, and peanuts, up 6 percent to 185,000 acres.

However, Jeff Knotts, FSA executive director Pike and Bullock counties, said he doesn’t expect Pike County farmers to fully follow that trend.

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“From what I’m hearing in the office, I feel like peanuts will stay close to last year’s acreage,” Knotts said. “I think farmers will plant around 3,000 acres of peanuts. That number might go up or down a little, but I don’t see much of a change. We’re not going to see the 6 percent increase that NASS predicts.”

However, Knotts said cotton acreage will be down because the input cost is high and the contract prices the farmer receives are low.

“Cotton acreage was around 4,800 acres last year, and we’re looking at about 4,000 acres this year,” he said. “Corn should remain about the same at around 2,500 acres. I don’t think we’ll see 10 percent drop in corn.

“As for an increase in soybeans, maybe. Some farmers are planting more soybeans because the input cost is not as high. A farmer can plant soybeans, and because the input cost is low, they can make a little money.”

Knotts said the market is there for soybeans, and that is an encouragement for local farmers to plant more, but the trend has not been significant.

“Soybean oil is used for cooking, and it’s cheaper then peanut oil,” he said. “Soy meal used in cattle feed and for other things so soybeans are a good supplemental crop.”

Knott said he doesn’t foresee Pike County farmers planting canola or sesame.

“Down around Geneva, farmers plant a good bit of canola and sesame,” he said. “One of our Goshen farmers planted sesame a couple of years ago and didn’t have good results. He’s not going to plant any more, and I don’t expect any other local farmers will either.

“I expect farming in Pike County to be much the same as always, with farmers adjusting on an individual basis in an effort to make a little money with their farming operations.”

Alabama Farmers Federation Cotton, Soybeans and Wheat and Feed Grains Director Carla Hornady said farmers are adjusting their planting intentions based on commodity prices and production costs.

“For many farmers, it’s a matter of economics,” Hornady said. “Low corn prices make soybeans a more attractive option for some farmers, especially those who don’t have irrigation. Soaring production costs and falling prices also are causing cotton farmers to look to other crops — like peanuts. In addition, we have seen increased interest in minor oil seeds like canola and sesame.”

Across the United States, cotton acreage is expected to fall 13 percent from 2014, while corn planting is set to decline 2 percent. Soybean acres are set to increase 1 percent, and peanut acreage is predicted to grow by 9 percent.

If realized, this would be the lowest planted corn acreage in the United States since 2010 and the lowest cotton acreage since 2009.

The NASS report predicts Alabama’s wheat acreage to drop 18 percent to 210,000 acres, but oat acreage is expected to be up 20 percent to 60,000 acres. Alabama farmers also are expected to devote less land to hay, down 5 percent to 710,000 acres.