Large acreage shifts, high yields and good prices marked Louisiana agricultural production in 2007. Many acres shifted away from cotton and into corn. Wheat acres also rose. Overall, Louisiana farmers had a strong year, according to an LSU AgCenter economist Kurt Guidry.

“We had some weather problems here and there. But when yields came in, several of the row crops were at or near record yields,” Guidry said.

“We had a phenomenal year in corn. Our five-year average was somewhere in the neighborhood of 135 bushels per acre. We did 170 bushels this year,” Guidry said. “Soybeans — we are going to set a record with 40 bushels per acre this year.”

The economist said cotton, rice, grain sorghum and wheat yields were all up in 2007.

In addition to strong yields, growers saw strong prices — some at historically high levels. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the average price of corn in 2007 was $3.50 a bushel, Guidry said.

“If you look back over the past 25 years, that would put it in the top 5 percent that we’ve seen,” Guidry said. “The same is true for grain sorghum.”

Soybean prices were high in 2007, and futures prices for 2008 look even better. Cotton and rice prices are up, but still are not at a level that producers would like.

“Cotton is around 50 cents a pound, which is better than last year, but still weak when you consider production costs,” Guidry said.

Farmers needed high prices and high yields to make a profit because production costs continued to rise in 2007. “Fuel was up around 8 percent according to the USDA,” Guidry said. “Fertilizer prices for 2007 were up about 17 to 18 percent from 2006, and those are obviously our big-ticket items in terms of production costs.”

Seed prices also were up for crop producers, and feed prices were up for livestock producers.

In 2008, Guidry expects to see more acreage shifts, but not as dramatic as in 2007. His prediction is that corn acreage will decline. “When you look at the expense of growing a corn crop in comparison with what you have with a soybean crop, and the profitability looks the same, producers are going to choose the lower cost commodity, and that will be soybeans.”

Guidry expects to see a soybean crop at or near 1 million acres.

Louisiana will have plenty of wheat acres, too — more than 300,000. This is more than double what the growers normally plant. “The only thing that stopped wheat acreage from climbing even higher is some weather problems and seed availability,” Guidry said.

Cotton acreage will likely remain low, and rice should pick up additional acres in the southwest region of the state because of price improvements and increased export demand.

High production costs will still affect farmers in 2008, and there is no predicting what the weather will do. But strictly based on numbers, farmers could be in for another good year.

“It’s going to cost producers more to grow a crop in 2008, but I think when you look across the board at cotton, rice, grain sorghum, soybeans, at least right now, the prospect for those prices look to be every bit as strong as 2007, and in some cases could be a lot stronger than we saw in 2007,” Guidry said.

e-mail: tblanchard@agcenter.lsu.edu