JEFF AMY Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. - Mississippi farmers have been harvesting fields heavy with crops.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting record yield per acre for Mississippi's corn, cotton and rice crops. Corn production is projected to reach nearly 147 million bushels, surpassing the 135 million bushels harvested in 2007 for the state's largest corn crop ever.
Farmers are expected to harvest 180 bushels of corn per acre, up almost 10 percent from 165 bushels per acre in 2012. The 2012 yield itself was a record, said agricultural economist Brian Williams of Mississippi State University. He said summer weather wasn't as hot as it could have been, and thus the corn wasn't stressed during the crucial parts of the growing season.
"You just couldn't get much better growing conditions, especially when the corn was pollinating and the ears were filling in," Williams said Monday.
After spring rains stalled planting of other crops, many Mississippi farmers planted soybeans, which take less time to mature. The state's soybean crop is also forecast to be one of the largest of all time at 85 million bushels, though down slightly from the 87 million bushels harvested in 2012. The largest soybean crop ever in Mississippi was the 119 million bushels harvested in 1979.
Soybean yield is expected to dip slightly to 43 bushels per acre from last year's record of 45. "It's still going to be some pretty good yields," Williams said.
Though cotton yield is also projected to be a record at 1,090 pounds per acre, overall output will decline as 37 percent fewer acres will be harvested this year than last year. Mississippi farmers have increasingly switched to corn and soybeans from their traditional preference of cotton, as prices for those crops have been driven up by worldwide demand for food and biofuels.
Mississippi's rice crop will also set a record for yield at 7,500 pounds per acre, up 4 percent from 2012's yield.
USDA reports that as of Nov. 4, all the corn and rice in the state had been harvested, along with 94 percent of the soybeans and 87 percent of the cotton.
Williams said 2013 will be profitable for Mississippi farmers, though not as profitable as 2012.
"I don't think we're going to see the profits we saw last year just because prices have come down," Williams said.
Mississippi farmers will harvest nearly 2 million acres of soybeans, compared to about 1.3 million acres for all other summer row crops. Williams said it's likely that Mississippi farmers will plant even more acres of soybeans next year, because their prices have fallen less than corn. Many farmers harvest winter wheat in the spring and then plant soybeans for fall harvest. Winter wheat plantings have risen by about 15,000 acres this fall, Williams said, one sign that soybean acreage could again rise.