North Carolina’s latest agricultural numbers
N.C. farm numbers, acreage hold steady
The number of farms in North Carolina held steady at 48,000 during 2006, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The state’s farm acreage also remained the same at 8.8 million.
North Carolina led the nation in farm loss in 2004 and 2005, losing a combined 4,000 farms. But the state has yielded the not-so-coveted top spot to Tennessee, which lost 2,000 farms in 2006. North Carolina was one of 16 states whose farm numbers did not change.
“I want to commend the county governments and non-profit groups that are working so hard to preserve working farms across the state,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. “Cooperation is the key to slowing the trend of farm loss.”
The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is reviewing more than 90 applications for grants through the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. The fund received an $8 million appropriation from the General Assembly to assist communities with conserving working farms. The department will award grants later this year.
The United States lost 13,280 farms in 2006, the USDA report said. The report, titled “Farm Numbers and Livestock Operations,” is available online at http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/MannUsda/viewDocumentInfo.do?documentID=1259.
N.C. wheat acreage up sharply
The prospect of strong prices prompted North Carolina farmers to plant 800,000 acres of winter wheat last fall, tying a record set in 1985.
Wheat acreage in the state is 27 percent higher than in 2006, when farmers put in 630,000 acres. Nationwide, wheat acreage is up 4 percent from 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s winter wheat report in January.
The U.S. wheat supply is extremely tight because of bad weather and the world’s continued strong appetite for wheat, said Dr. Gerald Bange, a USDA economist who chairs the World Agricultural Outlook Board.
“Strong domestic milling demand, particularly for high-quality wheat, and prospects for the highest exports since 1995-96 are expected to leave ending stocks (of wheat) at their lowest level in 60 years,” Bange said. “Production shortfalls in other major exporting countries have left exportable supplies of wheat very tight, with the United States the only available source of wheat for many importing countries,”
U.S. yields have fallen below trend for two years straight, mainly because of bad weather, Bange said. An early April frost across the Central Plains and South damaged last year’s crop. Production also was affected by too much rain at harvest in the Central and Southern Plains and extreme heat and dryness in the Northern Plains and Pacific Northwest, he said.
Because of the tight supply and high demand, cash prices are at near-record levels for all classes of wheat. Nationally, the average market price is forecast at $6.45 to $6.85 per bushel. At press time, cash prices for soft red winter wheat in North Carolina ranged from more than $9 per bushel at the elevators to more than $10 per bushel at a Statesville flour mill. New-crop prices at the elevators ranged from $5.99 to $8.19.