St. Charles Herald-Guide

La. farmers withstand drought, floods in Ď11

LSU AgCenter News - January 12, 2012

In a year marked by drought and floods, Louisiana farmers still managed to have a good year in 2011.

Dry weather allowed for easy and efficient harvests of most crops, and overall yields were respectable despite challenges.

LSU AgCenter economist Kurt Guidry said one downside was that some flooded or drought-damaged crops never did get harvested.

"We did have a higher abandonment this year in terms of acres when you look at the five-year average, particularly for soybeans and corn," Guidry said.

Farmers saw higher fuel and fertilizer costs this year than last, according to Guidry. More farmers also had to irrigate because of dry conditions, raising their total production costs.

Drought also caused an increase in feed prices for cattle producers.

"The flip side to that is that commodity prices got to extremely high levels this fall," Guidry explained. "Most of our commodities – our row crops, corn, soybeans, wheat to some extent, cotton – all had opportunities for producers to lock in some really high prices."

He also noted that prices for feeder cattle were at historically high levels.

Even with losses from drought and flooding, Guidry said, many farmers saw good profits this year.

"We are expecting net income to be higher in 2011 than in 2010, both for Louisiana farmers and the whole United States," he said.

Commodity prices will drive which crops are planted next year, and these prices have come down.

"Right now projecting forward, I donít see much of a change in acreage mix next year," he said.

Guidry predicts corn and soybeans may gain some acres with cotton and rice acreage either maintaining or falling slightly.

Prices for soybeans and corn look to be the most favorable, with cotton prices dropping.

Rice acres fell this year and may fall again next year.

"I really donít see anything for a price standpoint that would suggest weíre going to get those acres back," he said.

Rice acreage in northeast Louisiana moved to crops with stronger prices.

In the southwest, saltwater intrusion caused additional acreage losses.

"If we donít see some rain this winter, we could see a reduction in acreage either because irrigation sources have high salt content or land is still salty," Guidry explained.

With around one million acres in soybeans, Louisiana had more acres dedicated to that crop than any other row crop.

Corn was planted on around 570,000 acres; rice around 400,000 acres and cotton was a little less than 300,000 acres.

Agricultural enterprises in Louisiana are worth around $5 billion.