Agriculture continues to do its part to boost Mississippi’s economy as it remains a $7 billion industry in 2017.
Agricultural economists with the Mississippi State University Extension Service released year-end estimates Dec. 19 on the value of state crops. The top two agricultural commodities are still poultry at $2.8 billion, an increase of 13 percent, and forestry at $1.4 billion, a decline of 8 percent.
“Early expectations are for good reports in most commodities for 2017,” said Brian Williams, Extension agricultural economist. “Poultry, overall crops and livestock totals should all improve over the 2016 values. The exceptions are forestry, catfish and some individual commodities.”
The next largest commodity values are soybeans at $1.1 billion and cotton at $562 million, both increases over 2016.
“Cotton had the largest increase in value, with lint up 35 percent and seed up almost 31 percent,” Williams said. “A lot of that improvement is because growers planted more cotton.”
MSU Extension cotton specialist Darrin Dodds said growers expressed their faith in cotton by expanding acreage in 2017. Growers planted about 625,000 acres, compared with 435,000 in 2016.
“Most yields will be down about 200 pounds per acre, but we still made a good crop,” Dodds said. “Unfortunately, it was a very expensive crop to produce because of issues like controlling pigweed and worms.”
Crops with declines
Crops with the biggest declines included corn, with an estimated value of $337 million, down 25 percent; hay, $116 million, down 9 percent; rice, $105 million, down 22 percent; and grain sorghum, $1.3 million, down 62 percent. All of these values dropped largely because of reduced acreage.
Mississippi remains the national leader in catfish production, but catfish ranks No. 7 among the ag commodities in the state. Economists are predicting a value of almost $181 million, down almost 16 percent.
Extension catfish specialist Jimmy Avery said prices are a big reason for the expected decline in value.
“Prices were down 14-15 percent in 2017, but production remained positive,” Avery said. “In 2018, it will be important for the industry to take advantage of new technologies to help reduce costs. One specific challenge is how to market big fish that are produced under normal production practices.”
Avery said catfish pond acreage most likely will remain near 34,700, but production should go up slightly in 2018.
Williams said livestock’s overall values should improve about 4 percent. Beef cattle are down 4 percent, valued at $285 million. The hog industry had a good year with the value up 31 percent to $117 million. The milk value is 5 percent higher at $26 million.
“Beef prices were better than in 2016, but production was down mostly due to last fall’s drought,” Williams said. “We had more hogs in the state in 2017, which contributed to the increase in value.”
Sweet potatoes, the state’s 8th largest agricultural commodity, increased slightly to $123 million. Specialty crops, No. 11, also had a slight increase to a value of $107 million. Peanuts fell into 13th place with a value of $33 million.
With an estimated value of almost $13 million, wheat finished in 15th place, just ahead of grain sorghum.
Updated: Information added to sweet potatoes.