By Marlee Moore
Alabama row crop acreage is expected to remain steady in 2021 as farmers welcome better prices but brace for surging input costs.
Acreage estimates are nearly identical to 2020, save a 33% increase in winter wheat acres. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Prospective Plantings report released March 31.
“The stable acreage is due to rising input costs, crop rotation, equipment limitations and logistics such as on-farm storage,” said Alabama Farmers Federation Cotton, Soybean and Wheat & Feed Grain divisions director Carla Hornady. “Prices look great right now, but farmers have to consider the agronomic effect on their farms, not just the economic impact of high prices.”
Take Randall Beers. The 49-year-old is planting corn, peanuts and cotton in Dallas and Lowndes counties
“I have a rotation I stick pretty close to, but if one crop favors another market-wise, I may change it up,” said Beers, who serves on the Alabama Cotton Commission.
Nationally, diesel and fertilizer prices are trending upward. It’s having a direct effect on farmers like Beers. He said fuel prices are up 10-15%, while oil prices skyrocketed 40% since January. Fertilizer costs, which were at national 10-year lows last summer and fall, are increasing. Beers is facing a 25% increase in fertilizer.
“I’m feeling optimistic,” he said. “Last year was just so depressing. The markets were doing nothing, and it really didn’t seem like we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. We had a really good crop until Hurricane Zeta hit. This year, at least we have some prices to be optimistic about, and inputs haven’t gone crazy yet.”