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Energy, fertilizer costs, rain may limit Texas grain acreage

Texas corn growers, despite late season harvest difficulties, capitalized on better than average rainfall and put a decent crop in the bins.

“Yields have been good all over the state,” says David Gibson, executive director of the Texas Corn Producers Board at a media breakfast preceding the annual Texas Commodity Symposium held recently in conjunction with the Amarillo Farm and Ranch Show.

“Some farmers had corn flooded out and farmers in the High Plains still have corn in the fields (in early December) but we had good rain on this crop.”

Gibson says a few Blackland farmers also experienced harvest delays.

“But we had a good crop nationwide and that’s put a lot of downward pressure on prices,” Gibson says. “Even so, we expect acreage for 2005 to remain about the same (just under 2 million).”

He says farmers in the High Plains may cut back on irrigated corn acreage in favor of cotton. “We’ll lose irrigated acreage but pick up some dryland fields,” he says. “So acreage change will be about a wash. But production is likely to suffer because we’re taking out 270 bushel per acre irrigated yield potential and replacing it with 100 or so bushels on dryland acreage.”

Gibson expects increased costs for fertilizer and energy to pressure farmers away from irrigated corn. That trend may follow across the state, where growers have ample moisture to plant cotton.

“But if corn prices float up a bit and energy prices float down, they may change planting intentions.”

Gibson says with price and costs being equal farmers plant in their “comfort zone,” what they know best. “And they sometimes have a hard time remembering past last year.”

Gibson says corn for grain also may lose ground to silage in some areas as dairies look for feed sources.

He says an ethanol plant under construction in the area also may help corn growers, even though most of the raw material will come from out of state. “Local corn will be a good backup,” he says. “The plant will be geared up to take corn but may be modified to use grain sorghum.”

He says construction is just underway and demand likely will not affect local growers for a year or more.

Wheat growers may reduce acreage for the 2005 spring crop, whether they want to or not.

Fall rains prevented planting of considerable acreage across the state, says Scott McGarraugh, chairman of the Texas Wheat Board.

“Most of the Panhandle has most of the wheat acreage planted, but every county has some fields not in,” he says. “In the Blacklands area, more than 1 million acres that farmers had planned to plant will not be put in.”

He says the wheat that was up by early December looked good.

Many producers who planned to use wheat for winter pasture may have made other arrangements. “In some cases, wheat pastures were so wet, farmers had to move cattle to feedlots or grass pastures. Cattle on grazing is about as important to many producers as the value of the grain.”

The national picture for wheat acreage remains cloudy as well, says Mark Gayn, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers.

“We’ve seen problems across the Southern Plains with too much rain to get the crop in,” he says. “Also, soybean rust could be a factor in wheat acreage.”

He says the Midwest spring wheat planting intentions remain a question but a soybean rust scare could mean an acreage increase.

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