After “gloom and doom” in the U.S. economy in 2009, last year was a good one for north Mississippi agriculture, says Abbott Myers, Dundee, Miss., grains producer and chairman of the Mississippi Land Bank, which serves 32 counties in north Mississippi.

And while he sees the nation’s weighty debt and inflation as problems that need to be dealt with going forward, he told the bank’s stockholders at their annual meeting at Como, Miss., that the outlook for agriculture continues strong.

“Manufacturing and agriculture are about the only two bright spots in our economy, especially the grains sector,” he says. “The last three years have been good for grains; some are saying these are the golden years for U.S. agriculture. Even the livestock sector has turned around, and dairy is finally improving.

“But every year, it seems, prices for our inputs go up — for farmland, for land rent, seed, chemicals; all my costs keep increasing, and by a lot more than the government’s 4 percent inflation rate.

While some are worried about a commodity bubble, Myers says, “I don’t think we’re going to have a bubble. On the other hand, I don’t see $7 corn or $14 soybeans at harvest this fall. I think prices will retreat somewhat, although I don’t believe we’ll go back to $2.80 corn or $5 beans.

“The reason? We’ve had crop shortfalls in the U.S. and other countries around the world. The pipeline for the major crops is about empty and demand, particularly in China, is increasing. The U.S. used to be the world’s granary, but now all the stocks are at or near historic lows, except for rice. And a cheap dollar makes it easier for other countries to buy our commodities.

“Populations are increasing and people in China, India, Russia, and elsewhere are continuing to improve their diets. I don’t see them wanting to go back to the way things were before, which means demand should continue to grow.

“All this means a big opportunity for U.S. agriculture — if we can just manage to keep a lid on inflation.”

Higher commodity prices have increased investment in farmland, Myers says, and that has helped to push prices upward.

“With farmland prices reaching new highs — $9,000 an acre in Illinois, $13,500 in Iowa — many are wondering if there is potential for a land bust like we had in the 1980s?

“I don’t think so. I think land costs may retreat some, because $7 soybeans can’t support astronomical land prices. If commodities go down, land will also go down some, because it’s commodity-driven. But long term, I don’t think land prices will fall that much.