March 30, 2018
By Debra Davis
Alabama farmers are expected to plant more winter wheat, cotton and corn this year while peanut acreage is predicted to drop, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report issued Thursday. Soybeans will remain steady with 350,000 acres predicted to be planted — about the same as last year.
USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service issued the prospective planting report based on survey responses farmers submitted the first two weeks of March. The Alabama Farmers Federation’s Carla Hornady said a variety of factors may ultimately change what farmers will plant this year.
“If poor growing conditions in South America create a smaller crop there, U.S. farmers could respond by planting more soybean acres,” said Hornady, the Federation’s Soybean, Cotton and Wheat & Feed Grain Divisions director. “Likewise, weather conditions could change local planting decisions. If we suddenly have a very wet or dry spring that prevents farmers from planting an early crop, they could decide to plant something different later in the season.”
Alabama’s 2018 cotton acreage is forecast at 470,000 acres, up 8 percent from last year. Hornady said the increase is likely the result of favorable changes for cotton that are predicted in the upcoming farm bill.
Alabama farmers reported they intend to plant 260,000 acres of corn, up 4 percent from last year, according to the USDA report.
Typically planted in the fall, winter wheat acreage is expected to jump 27 percent in Alabama this year, according to USDA. Hornady said the increase is likely the result of normal fall planting conditions returning to Alabama. USDA predicts state farmers will plant about 190,000 acres – up from 150,000 the previous year.
“Fall planting of winter wheat last year was delayed because some fall crops were harvested late, and dry conditions followed,” she said. “Consequently, a lot of acres destined for winter wheat never got planted.”
USDA predicts160,000 acres of peanuts will be planted in Alabama, an 18-percent drop from 2017. Alabama Peanut Producers Association Executive Director Caleb Bristow said less peanut acreage is likely the result of low prices caused by a plentiful supply of peanuts on hand.
"Spring (peanut) contracts are low, signaling the market does not need a lot of peanuts right now,” Bristow said. “Considering higher cotton prices, peanut farmers are looking at other options to cash flow their operations this year."
Farmers “follow the money” by planting crops they believe will be the most profitable, Hornady said, but other factors play a role.
“Farmers rotate crops because rotation helps soil remain healthy,” she said. “Each crop has different demands on the soil. Crop rotation allows the soil to replenish itself.”
Nationally, USDA reports an estimated 89 million acres of soybeans will be planted in 2018, down 1 percent from last year. Corn acreage is estimated at 88 million acres, down 2 percent from 2017. All cotton planted is estimated at 13.5 million acres, 7 percent above last year. Peanuts planted are estimated at 1.54 million acres, down 18 percent.
Click here for a complete look at the southern region planting prospective.
The next opportunity to evaluate actual acreage decisions will be USDA’s June 29, 2018, Acreage report.