Corn crops on rise

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 10, 2007

VIDALIA — Cotton may be king, but after a year in which more corn acreage was planted than since the 1930s, the old commodity monarch may be losing its grip on the kingdom.

Growers in Louisiana planted approximately 325,000 acres of cotton for the 2007 harvest, which comes down to a little less than half of the traditional cotton acreage.

In the past, the amount of land dedicated to cotton has been between 650,000 and 700,000 acres, agriculture economist Kurt Guidry said.

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Most of that acreage was rededicated to corn.

“The market realized it was going to need considerably higher number of corn acres, and the only way to attract a commodity is to raise prices,” he said. “It didn’t take long to see corn was going to be a commodity with a very high profit margin.”

That rededication has hit the cotton industry in a way that was felt, Guidry said.

“From a percentage standpoint, cotton has had the largest drop in commodity crop production acres this year,” he said.

The problem with the low acreage is that the infrastructure built around cotton in Louisiana cannot support such a small crop load, Guidry said.

If the trend of less cotton being planted becomes a long term one, it could have some long-term consequences, Guidry said.

“If this becomes a more than two-year phenomenon, then you could have some long-run impacts,” he said. “The infrastructure in northeast Louisiana is pretty significantly tied to agriculture and until the last couple of years cotton was the chief crop grown — the infrastructure was built to service the cotton industry.”

Cotton is more expensive to produce with corn because planters have to do more pesticide applications and generally have to take more care of the plants, Guidry said.

“The problem with that is that less business for cotton means less business for aerial applicators and pesticide sellers,” he said. “Producers even typically make more trips over their acres in terms of diesel with cotton.”

Other places that will feel the cotton pinch are in the crop consulting business and at the cotton gin level, Guidry said.

“With fewer acres to scout, there’s less business for (crop consultants),” he said.

Should cotton remain the dethroned king, the agriculture industry will have to rethink and rebuild its infrastructure in northeast Louisiana, Guidry said.

“Anytime you have a shift out of a commodity that has been the main crop for an area to another one it has some implications,” he said.

However, if the crop sees a turnaround next year, things will return to normal, Guidry said.

“If we see a crop of 650,000 acres next year, all of those (aspects of the industry) will be back in business,” he said.