Record corn production forecast for Louisiana

Published 7:15 pm Wednesday, September 12, 2007

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Corn production in Louisiana is expected to reach an all-time high, 116.8 million bushels, after farmers devoted more acres to the higher-priced crop.

In spite of drier conditions earlier this summer, the crop is expected to produce a record yield of 160 bushels per acre, 12 bushels better than the previous high reached in 2001, and dwarf last year’s production of 40.6 million bushels, the Louisiana field office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Wednesday.

‘‘This is amazing,’’ the agency’s deputy director, Sammye Crawford, said. ‘‘When you’re looking at a crop, you’ve got everybody and his brother planting corn — many of them have probably never grown corn before — and you’re blowing out the state record yield by 12 bushels to the acre? That’s kind of amazing.’’

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Nationwide, farmers are expected to produce an estimated 13.3 billion bushels of corn — a sharp increase over last year, as higher prices driven by demand from the ethanol industry and more traditional markets fueled interest among growers either in planting more corn or in planting cotton or soybean acres to corn.

The shift was apparent in Louisiana where cotton production is expected to reach 650,000 bales, its lowest level since farmers harvested 641,000 bales in 1998. This is in spite of yields this year that the statistics service expects will be among the highest on record.

Soybean production, meanwhile, is forecast to reach 22.6 million bushels, down from 29.4 million bushels last year.

Crawford said it’s too early to tell whether the change in acreage will be long lasting. That will depend, in part, on the alternative fuels market and the experiences farmers have in finding sufficient storage space or barges to transport the commodity, she said. Price, too, will be a major consideration, she said.

And not just for corn: Jess Barr, executive vice president of the Louisiana Cotton Producers Association, said the soybean price bears watching, too.

‘‘Cotton prices are going to need to move up to buy some of that (acreage) away from soybeans,’’ he said. While soybean acres were down in the state this year, ‘‘prices move up fairly appreciably, where cotton moved up some, but not nearly enough.’’