From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released its 2016 Prospective Plantings Report, and planting intentions point to some interesting changes for some crops this year.
Farmers report that they intend to plant more corn, sweet potatoes, hay and peanuts in 2016. One of the most interesting in that group is sweet potatoes. If planting intentions hold true, we could be looking at the highest acreage ever recorded in our state at 105,000 acres. That is up 21 percent from 2015. The record is 101,000 acres in 1932.
Sweet potato producers are finding new markets for their commodities, including through value-added production, so this jump is not too surprising. We are now seeing sweet potatoes in pet food, as well as the raw product being turned into chips, fries and purees, making it easier for consumers and food service workers. We even have a company in the state making vodka from sweet potatoes. All of these uses mean there is a market for less-than-perfect potatoes including smaller, misshapen ones, which is good for the bottom line.
We often see up and down numbers for corn, particularly as prices fluctuate. Farmers have indicated they plan to plant 930,000 acres this year. That is 18 percent higher than 2015, reversing a downward trend of the past two growing seasons.
Another crop that Dr. Nick Piggott, an N.C. State University ag economist, recently pointed out as being on the rise is grain sorghum, which is projected to be up by 25 percent. If planting intentions hold true, acreage would jump from around 40,000 acres to 50,000. Piggott attributes that increase to grain sorghum potentially being more profitable than soybeans or cotton.
Hay acreage is expected to be up 7 percent and peanut acreage is expected to be 6 percent higher.
When we have increases in some crops, that typically means another crop loses ground. Cotton, tobacco and soybean plantings are all expected to be down. We already saw a drop in winter wheat production, down 25 percent at 490,000 acres planted.
Cotton looks be the next biggest dropper, also down 25 percent at 290,000 projected acres.
Farmers are looking at smaller flue-cured and burley tobacco acreage this year, with flue-cured dropping by 6 percent to 160,000 acres and burley being forecast down by 5 percent.
Intentions also point to smaller soybean acreage, down 7 percent from 2015.
Of course, planting intentions and actual plantings can be two completely different things. We’ll know more in June when the USDA’s acreage report comes out.
Regardless of the crops being planted, I hope 2016 is a good growing year for farmers, and that farms are profitable.