Forecast for Georgia farmers looks mostly favorable

lmorris@macon.comJanuary 24, 2014 

Beef cattle producers in Georgia may have something to look forward to this year.

According to the 2014 Ag Forecast, grain and peanut farmers can expect to see a mixed market. And since China is stockpiling cotton, it remains to be seen what that will mean to cotton farmers.

This is some of the information passed along to about 160 people gathered Friday at the Georgia Farm Bureau offices in Macon for the annual forecast meeting. This was the first of six meetings held across the state.

“This is a good year to be in the livestock business,” said Curt Lacy, an economist with the University of Georgia’s Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Abundant rain and falling corn prices helped keep costs low for cattle farmers. Cattle farmers may “have bigger checks, but have less money when it’s all said and done,” Lacy said. “The reality is that most folks don’t have more money to spend today than they did six or seven years ago.”

The reason for this is due to higher taxes and higher fuel prices.

So even though livestock producers are seeing higher prices, “it’s really hard to push those higher prices to the retail level and to the consumer, because all in all they don’t have a lot more money to spend,” Lacy said.

Peanuts had a good year in 2013, said Don Shurley, an agriculture expert with UGA.

The domestic use of peanuts is up, but exports are down, Shurley said. Too much of the product is being stockpiled now, which is affecting prices.

Some early peanut contracts offered farmers are for $425 a ton, but “most growers are looking for something with a five in front of (the number),” Shurley said.

The global demand for soybeans is growing, and South American production is up, he said. China is importing a lot of soybeans.

“We are a little more optimistic for soybeans than we are for corn,” he said. “Exports will be the key. We expect more acreage from corn to soybeans in the U.S. and somewhat in Georgia.”

A lot of cotton is in the marketplace.

“We have enough stocks of cotton to last us basically nine to 10 months worldwide,” Shurley said. “That’s a burdensome amount. But it’s important to know who has it and what they will do with it. Sixty percent of it’s in China. For the most part they have been sitting on their hands. ... China is an increasing unknown and source of instability. They have been building stocks, but no one knows why.”

Pulaski County farmer Rodney Dawson, who grows cotton, peanuts, wheat, corn and soybeans said he was hopeful for the coming year.

“I think as far as beef and poultry (producers) I heard good prospects,” Dawson said.

He was happy to hear that costs should be lower for row crop farmers, “so hopefully that will help our bottom line. The price of cotton is not going to be as high as it has been for the last couple of years, but hopefully things will stabilize. ... China was a big player to our peanut industry last year along with the cotton.”

China might be trying to build up their economy by stockpiling cotton and as long as they don’t dump it all on the market at once, it shouldn’t affect prices too much, he said.

“I’m optimistic, but I’m always concerned about prices, especially about the contract prices being offered on peanuts,” he said. “I’m waiting for a little better offer than what we’re being offered today. From what I heard today, I think we should be able to get a little higher number” than $425 a ton.

Crawford County farmer Larry Cooley said after the meeting that he also is optimistic about the coming year.

He and his son have 18 boiler chicken houses and 100 head of beef cattle. They also grow horse hay.

“It’s very encouraging because of the way beef cattle took off in the last few years, I knew the report would be good,” Cooley said.

However, chicken prices have been stagnant for the past several years because of corn prices and decreased demand for exports, he said.

When animal prices are up, grain prices tend to drop, Lacy said.

“To be a farmer in this day and time, you have to diversify or you’re not going to make it,” Cooley said.

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223

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