For Once: Crop yield makes Ala. farmers proud

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 7, 2003

For the first time in years, harvest season gave most Alabama farmers something to smile about. Crops are good and so are the prices – a rare combination for most Alabama producers.

Toss in the fact that beef prices are near an all-time high, and it’s easy to understand why they’re smiling.

But the year didn’t start out that way. Heavy spring rains delayed planting for many cotton and peanut farmers, causing them to wonder if they’d ever get their crop in the ground. And even though some of them planted their crops three times to get them established, yields and grades were good in most cases.

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However, "rain is the main reason we’re making good crop yields," said Hale County extension agent Jamie Clary. "Water (provides) a lot of wonders…to make the crop good."

The state’s four major row crops – cotton, peanuts, corn and soybeans – produced better than average harvests

this year. "We have all of those crops grown in Hale County and most of the surrounding counties," the agent said . "(There are) not many farmers, but we’ve got several thousand acres of each crop.

But for cotton farmers it’s the price, which is the best it’s been for several years, that most raised their hopes.

Alabama farmers planted 560,000 acres of cotton this year and harvested about 510,000 acres.

The average yield for corn was 90 to 120 bushels per acre in central Alabama, he said.

The wet spring and summer translated into a record corn crop for the state where an average of 112 bushels per acre were harvested – about 30 bushels above average. However, corn production was up nationwide, which has caused prices to drop nearly 40 cents, a bushel lower than last year.

There is only one peanut grower, Barry Smith in Hale County. His peanut yields have been great, Clary said.

Most peanut growers in Alabama have finished harvesting their crop and estimates are that they’ll harvest about 2,900 pounds per acre – 783 pounds more than the 10-year average. A reduction in the acreage planted nationwide helped keep prices consistent, and a new federal marketing loan program gave farmers more opportunities to increase their profits.

In addition, "wheat was harvested back in June and early July," Clary said, "but we had a real good wheat crop." Although there were not a lot of acres planted, he said.

Farmers who planted soybeans expect yields of 31 bushels an acre, about five more bushels than the 10-year average. While prices fluctuate, soybean prices for December have been about $1.80 per bushel more than last year.