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Growers staying with winning strategy

In an informal survey of Delta growers attending the annual Delta Ag Expo in Cleveland Tuesday, some 75 row crop farmers representing about 167,000 acres of row crops indicated their planting intentions for 2004 are very close to the acreage and crops they planted in 2003. (The results of the survey should not be considered statistically significant.)

Willard Jack, who farms 2,800 acres in Humphreys County, called 2003 one of his “personal best” years in terms of yields. That’s one of the reasons he plans to plant the same acreage to the same crops in 2004.

“We had some good yields and good prices in 2003, and we think we can have another good year in 2004,” he said.

The first 75 of several hundred farmers registering for the Delta Ag Expo, which runs through Jan. 21 at the Bolivar County Exposition Center in Cleveland, completed an anonymous written survey and were asked to indicate their planting intentions for 2004. The growers surveyed indicated they will plant a total of 168,000 acres of rows crops in Bolivar and surrounding Delta counties of Mississippi.

Indications from those growers revealed a slight increase for cotton, soybeans and rice acreage and a slight decrease in corn. The total intended acreage of the farmers surveyed was 34,575 acres of cotton, up from 32,437 in 2003; 83,822 acres of soybeans, up only 325 acres from 2003; 32,719 acres of rice, up from 30,396 acres in 2003; and 13,876 acres of corn, down from 15,471 acres in 2003. The remainder of the reported acreage is intended for milo and truck crops.

Steve Martin, an agricultural economist at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Leland, said the survey indicates what most people in the agricultural sector are expecting for the 2004 year.

“Based on the good prices and in many cases record-breaking yields, we anticipate Delta plantings of the three major row crops – cotton, soybeans and rice – to be up slightly and for corn acreage to be down,” said Martin. “Prices are up for everything but corn, but growers had such good yields from corn in 2003, that we don’t even expect that acreage to be down significantly in 2004.”

Terry Dulaney, co-owner of Dulaney Seed in Clarksdale, Miss., a farmer and exhibitor at the Expo, said “Overall the ag economy has probably got a smile on its face coming off of a year with good production and good prices. It’s the first time in a number of years we have had the opportunity to forward price soybeans and cotton and even wheat at profitable levels.”

Marty Chenault, who farms with his farmer and uncle in Bolivar County, said their acreage will remain near the 3,200 acres they planted last year.

“Everything is paying the price we need for it too, so we are going to stay with the program,” he said.

The Delta Ag Expo is sponsored by the Delta Agricultural Exposition Corporation and the MSU Extension Service.

Eva Ann Dorris is a free lance writer.

e-mail: [email protected]

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