By Debra Davis
Alabama farmers will plant more corn and wheat this year, but less cotton, peanuts and soybeans, according to the March Agricultural Survey released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture today.
Farmers decisions are greatly influenced by the economy, said the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Carla Hornady. Fluctuating markets, weather, unstable foreign trade, and in some cases erratic buying habits of consumers, all can influence farmers’ decisions, she said.
“Commodity prices, along with other factors, play heavily into planting decisions,” said Hornady, the Federation Cotton, Soybean and Wheat & Feed Grain divisions director. “Farmers are looking to plant crops that will make their farms profitable. Current market prices are making those decisions difficult.”
Farmers throughout the country were surveyed the first two weeks of March for the report prepared by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).
Cotton will remain the top crop grown in Alabama, if NASS predictions materialize. Farmers reported intentions to plant 530,000 acres of cotton, down 2% from last year’s 540,000 acres. Corn is still a staple crop for Alabama farmers, who say they’ll plant 370,000 acres this year. That’s an increase of 50,000 acres more than last year. If realized, this will be the largest acreage since 1985.
Soybean acres are expected to drop by 5,000 acres from 2019, with an estimated 260,000 acres this year. Alabama peanut acres are expected to increase slightly, from 160,000 acres in 2019 to 165,000 acres this year.
Wheat is a cool-season crop, often planted by Alabama farmers as a cover crop or as a predecessor to a late soybean crop. NASS reports state farmers will buck the national trend of fewer acres by planting 150,000 acres this year — that’s 20,000 acres more than 2019.
The state’s largest but often overlooked crop is hay. It’s harvested for cattle, horses and other livestock. Alabama’s forecast for 2020 predicts acreage to remain steady at 700,000 acres — the same as last year.
NASS estimated 97 million acres of corn will be planted in America, up 8% from last year. National soybean acreage is predicted to be 83.5 million acres, up 10% from last year, and U.S. cotton acres are estimated to be 13.7 million acres, down less than 1% from 2019. Wheat acreage estimates of 44.7 million acres are down 1% from last year and represent the lowest amount since records began in 1919.