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Low commodity prices highlight Ag Forecast event By Clint Thompson

One of the state’s leading counties in row crop production received bleak news about commodity prices during a 2015 Georgia Ag Forecast event held Thursday, Jan. 22.

More than 200 regional farmers and industry personnel gathered at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Conference Center for the event, presented by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in order to provide farmers a glimpse of what to expect this year from the state’s No. 1 industry. Though not unexpected, farmers can anticipate more of the same this growing season — depressingly low prices.

“Price prospects for Georgia’s major row crops have been in a downtrend since last summer and the outlook for 2015 doesn’t show a lot of improvement. Profit margins are low, and covering total costs is a concern this year,” said Nathan Smith, agricultural economist on the UGA Tifton Campus.

Tift County ranks in the top 15 in the state in farm gate value for cotton and peanut production.

As farmers plan for the upcoming season, one factor they’ll have to consider is the expected increase in peanut acreage. Smith said acreage should top 700,000 acres this year. That would be a substantial increase from the 600,000 acres planted last year and 430,000 in 2013.

Increased acreage is due in large part to the low prices for cotton and corn. Peanuts prices are down as well, in the $400 to $425 per ton range. But Smith believes farmers are more likely to profit from peanuts than cotton or corn.

“Peanut yields have improved the last couple years, and the potential for Price Loss Coverage payments tied to peanuts will swing more acres to be planted to peanuts in 2015,” Smith said.

UGA Extension economists believe cotton acreage will decrease to 1.2 million acres this year because prices have declined 25 percent since April and May of 2014. UGA cotton economist Don Shurley believes prices could reach 70 cents per pound later in the year, far below the 80 cents farmers desire.

After a record year for corn production — 14.2 billion bushels in the country last year — acreage should decrease in 2015 with Georgia prices hovering between $4 to $4.50 per bushel, said Smith.

“It’s going to be one of those getting-by years,” said Rome Ethredge, Seminole County Extension agricultural and natural resources agent. Ethredge serves in an agricultural area that, according to the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, leads the state in row crop production, mainly cotton, peanuts and corn.

During the two weeks that Ag Forecast has been held across the state, Smith has tried to help farmers create budgets based on their economic prospects, costs and returns and which low prices are the main risks in 2015. “We need to know the major factors we’re looking at for 2015 that’ll affect price,” he said.

Georgia Ag Forecast seminars were held in Lyons, Tifton and Macon this week. Each forecast event focuses on the commodities grown in that region of the state.

UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Georgia Farm Bureau and the Georgia Department of Agriculture sponsor the annual Ag Forecast seminar series every year. Last year, close to 1,000 business people, farmers and community leaders attended the events.

(Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.)

Dug, undug peanuts
Dug, undug peanuts

There were almost 800,000 acres of peanuts grown in Georgia in 2015.

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There were almost 800,000 acres of peanuts grown in Georgia in 2015. Download Image
Cotton in trailer
Cotton in trailer

Cotton is dumped into a trailer at the Gibbs Farm in Tifton on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013.

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Corn
Corn

Corn growing in a field in south Georgia.

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