USDA is projecting that Louisiana will increase plantings from 315,000 acres to 570,000 acres this year, a whopping 81 percent increase. Arkansas corn acres are expected to rise from 190,000 acres to 300,000 acres, a 58 percent increase. Mississippi corn plantings are projected to increase 38 percent, to 550,000 acres.

Across the United States, corn growers intend to plant 79.0 million acres of corn in 2002, up 4 percent from 2001 but down 1 percent from 2000, according to USDA. Expected acreage is up in many areas of the United States and in virtually all areas of the Corn Belt. General U.S. conditions so far this year have been cooperative and have increased farmers’ hopes of planting their corn crop on time.

USDA’s March 28 Prospective Plantings report was based on grower surveys conducted in early March. The next acreage report will be released in June.

According to the surveys, almost three-fourths of soybean acreage will be planted in biotech varieties this year, compared to 32 percent for corn. Seventy-one percent of cotton acreage will be planted to varieties with one or more biotechnology traits. Georgia growers are expected to have the highest percentage of biotech cotton, 90 percent, followed by Louisiana, 89 percent, Mississippi, 87 percent and Arkansas, 84 percent.

U.S. cotton producers will plant 14.77 million acres in 2002, according to USDA, about six percent less than last year. Low prices and uncertainty with the farm bill led to the decrease .

Upland cotton growers in the Delta intend to plant 4.02 million acres, a 13 percent decrease from the previous year, but at the high end of trade expectations. The projected declines amount to about 580,000 fewer acres in the Delta, with the largest drops in Mississippi, from 1.62 million acres to 1.4 million acres and Louisiana, from 870,000 acres to 660,000 acres.

Producers in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and New Mexico intend to plant 6.08 million acres, down 5 percent from last year. The Southeast region intends to plant 3.55 million acres of cotton, a 2 percent decrease from 2001.

Cotton acreage in California and Arizona is expected to total 850,000 acres, 9 percent below last year. California producers intend to plant 590,000 acres, an 8 percent decrease from 2001. If realized, California planted acreage will represent the lowest planted acreage since 1950 and about half the acreage that was planted as recently as 1995.

Soybean producers intend to plant 73.0 million acres, down 2 percent from last year. In the Mid-South, Mississippi and Louisiana will increase soybean acreage slightly, Tennessee will remain the same, while acreage is expected to decrease slightly in Arkansas.

Area intended for rice in 2002 is estimated at 3.32 million acres, down less than 1 percent from 2001. Long grain planted acreage, representing 81 percent of the total, is down 1 percent from last year. Medium grain planted acreage, representing 18 percent of the total, increased 3 percent from 2001.

In the Mid-South, rice acreage is projected to increase slightly in Arkansas, to 1.651 million acres, Mississippi, to 260,000 acres and Missouri, to 216,000 acres. Rice acreage is expected to fall in Louisiana, to 520,000 acres.

U.S. grain sorghum acreage is expected to drop 12 percent to 9.02 million acres in 2002. If realized, this would be the lowest plantings since 1929. However, Tennessee and Arkansas growers say they will increase plantings by 17 percent and 43 percent respectively.

All wheat planted area is expected to total 59.0 million acres in 2002. This is down 1 percent from 2001 and the lowest level since 1972.

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com