MISSISSIPPI FARMERS will remember 2002 for the wet harvest season, but economists will remember the depressed markets across the board that resulted in a 6 percent decline from the previous year's agricultural values.

Final numbers are in from the 2002 crops, and Mississippi agricultural economists are finding tallies near last December's expectations. The grand total of all the state's commodities plus government payments is $4.5 billion, down from $4.8 billion in 2001.

“As expected, the poultry industry posted some of the biggest losses as a result of export problems and reductions in production,” said John Anderson, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. “The value of broilers was $1.2 billion, compared to almost $1.5 billion the year before for an 18 percent decline.”

Forestry ranked second among Mississippi agricultural commodities with a value of just over $1 billion, a 1.1 percent decline.

While rains during cotton harvest were frustrating for many growers and devastating for others, the 2002 crop posted an 18 percent increase from 2001. Cotton's value for 2002 was $439 million.

Mississippi's fifth through seventh highest agricultural commodities were catfish at $242 million (down 7 percent), cattle and calves at $181 million (down 14 percent), and corn at $156 million (up 56 percent), largely due to increased acreage.

Other final values include hay at $75 million (down 13 percent), horticultural crops at $73 million (down 1.2 percent), milk at $63 million (down 22 percent), and rice at $62 million (down 10 percent).