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Season after hurricanes welcomed in Louisiana

Last year will likely be remembered as the year after the hurricanes for many Louisiana citizens. The fact that it was a relatively ordinary year was a welcome relief to many, including farmers.

While the hurricanes in 2005 took a toll on many agricultural producers, production in 2006 was good for most commodities, according to LSU AgCenter economist Kurt Guidry. “If you look at all the row crop commodities, all of those have average yields that will be right around or higher than the five-year average.”

Sugarcane growers are still harvesting their crops and were reporting excellent yields until recent freezes. “Overall I think this is still one of the best crops we've had in four years,” said Ben Legendre, LSU AgCenter's sugarcane specialist.

Prices were low for sugarcane and cotton, but most of the other commodity prices were either up or around average. Rice growers have struggled over the past few years with low prices, but last year they saw some improvement. “Rice prices have rebounded somewhat from 2005 with the expectation that they will continue to rebound in 2007,” Guidry said.

Even with good commodity prices, however, some growers had a difficult time making a profit because of high production costs. “Ammonium nitrate fertilizer was 26 percent higher in 2006 versus 2005, according to USDA. Diesel fuel was 16 percent higher in 2006 versus 2005,” Guidry said.

Meanwhile, the demand for ethanol is increasing the demand for corn and driving up corn prices. “As a result, we've seen corn prices for next season at well above $3.50 a bushel,” Guidry said.

That is more than a dollar increase over 2006 prices, and Guidry said this will drive up corn acres in 2007. “We are going to see somewhere in the neighborhood of a 100,000-acre to a 200,000-acre increase, which is pretty substantial in Louisiana.”

Guidry is anticipating an increase in grain sorghum acreage, as well, while soybean acreage likely will remain stable and cotton will decrease, “driven by an increase in corn and sorghum acres.”

Legendre said sugarcane farmers are excited about new sugarcane varieties. “Farmers are very optimistic about the future and were looking forward to harvesting plant cane in new varieties.”

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