Corn, soybeans replacing costly cotton in Tennessee

Corn, soybeans replacing costly cotton in Tennessee

Posted: Tuesday, August 5, 2008 9:21 pm
By: AP

NASHVILLE (AP) — Agri-culture experts say Tennessee producers are moving away from cotton because of rising production costs and the lure of more profitable crops. According to the U.S. De-partment of Agriculture, cotton acreage planted in Tennessee this year was the lowest it has been in a quarter-century. About 40 percent fewer acres of cotton were planted in the state in 2008 than last year, the largest single-year drop since 1954. Obion County’s University of Tennessee Extension office director Tim Smith said the county’s acreage is about the same because it doesn’t traditionally have a large acreage of cotton. But he added farmers in the southern portion of northwest Tennessee have cut their acreage. John Woolfolk, associate dir-ector of commodities with the Tennessee Farm Bureau, said cotton is an expensive and labor-intensive crop, and many growers question whether it will become a moneymaker again, The Tennessean reported. USDA statistics show corn and soybeans are the most common cotton replacement. This year, farmers put more soybeans in Tennessee soil than they had in 22 years, and corn acreage also is on the rise. In all, field crops brought in about $1 billion in Tennessee last year. “Cotton has been very important in Tennessee,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens. “But it’s not like it has gone away and no other crop has taken its place.” Industry officials said there is also been a reduction in cotton farmers, and that number is expected to continue to decline if prices don’t improve. At one time, Glen Hutchinson was one of the area’s biggest cotton growers, raising about 1,200 acres on his Rutherford County farm. He said he got out of the crop two years ago because cotton prices stayed flat while the cost of raising it increased. “It made it more profitable to grow other crops,” he said. “(Cotton’s) day will be back, I’m sure. But it’s not right now.” In 2005 and 2006, cotton made more money for Tennessee farmers than any other field crop. Early estimates valued last year’s Tennessee cotton crop at $154 million, well behind corn ($307 million) and soybeans ($183 million). “Farmers tend to gravitate to what is hot at the moment,” Givens said. Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com Published in The Messenger 8.05.08

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