Profits May Be Challenging This Year for Georgia Farmers

Clint Thompson

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Georgia’s top row crop farmers are not immune to low commodity prices. University of Georgia economists delivered that dire message during an Ag Forecast event held Friday in Bainbridge.

“It’s going to be one of those getting-by years,” said Rome Ethredge, Seminole County Extension agricultural and natural resources agent. Ethredge serves 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.

Georgia’s farmers are making preparations to counter a bleak market outlook for row crop commodities.

“I asked a grower the other day, ‘What are you going to plant this year?’ He said, ‘Well, I really haven’t decided yet.’ That’s part of why folks are here at Ag Forecast, to try to figure out what would be the best way to divvy up what they’re going to grow,” Ethredge said. “It’s going to be a year where we try to grow what we can and try to grow crops as efficiently as we can while still getting the best yields. We’re going to try to market the crop wisely.”

One advantage many southwest Georgia farmers have over other producers across the state is the presence of grain bins. Most grain bins have driers that allow corn growers to store their crops for an extended period of time, allowing producers to market corn more effectively.

“We can put it in the grain bin and keep it in good shape through the winter. Then when there’s times when the prices go up, we have a lot of chickens we need to feed in the Southeastern United States; price goes up on corn in the winter time, they can ship it out and maybe get a price bump there,” Ethredge said.

Grain bins also allow corn growers to get their crops out of the field quickly and plant an ultra-late soybean crop, he said. Growing two crops in the same season increases the farmers’ chances of making a profit.

Making a profit may be a challenge for Georgia’s row crop farmers this year.

UGA Extension economist Nathan Smith is trying 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.

A big factor for Georgia farmers is the expected increase in peanut acreage, which is expected to increase this year to at least 700,000 acres this year, Smith said. This is up from 590,000 last year and 430,000 in 2013. Increased acreage is due in large part to the extreme low prices for cotton and corn. Peanuts prices are down as well, in the $400 to $425 per ton range.

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, 2014.

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.

Georgia Ag Forecast seminars were held across the state last week in Gainesville, Cartersville and Bainbridge. Ag Forecast events are set for Lyons, Tifton and Macon this week. Each forecast event focuses on the commodities grown in that region of the state.

UGA, 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.