GFB News Magazine

UGA experts predict challenging times for farmers

Posted on February 19, 2019 12:00 AM

By Jay Stone

A variety of challenges face Georgia’s farmers for the 2019 crop year, speakers at the 2019 Georgia Ag Forecast Series said. These include Hurricane Michael recovery and continuing low commodity prices.

Georgia Farm Bureau President Gerald Long, speaking at the Macon meeting in January, said crop damage from Hurricane Michael was the worst he’s experienced.

“It’ll be several years getting past that,” Long said. It’s been a very challenging year. It doesn’t really matter what type of agriculture, and the impact is not just for farmers.”

Long, who farms outside Bainbridge where the center of the storm hit, noted one cotton gin in southwest Georgia was expecting to handle 180,000 bales but will only gin about 50,000 bales because of losses due to weather.

UGA ag economists addressed other hurdles facing farmers, chief among them international trade.

“There’s a lot of things going on right now in the ag sector,” said UGA Assistant Professor of Agricultural & Applied Economics Adam Rabinowitz. “You really do hope at times you can pull something out of a hat that says this is the golden egg or rabbit. The situation is a little rough.”

Row crop forecast

Cotton, peanut, corn and soybean producers are all wrangling with trade issues, and it is unclear how long it will last.

Rabinowitz said cotton exports are declining in part because of increasing strength of the U.S. dollar. Increases in ending stocks are contributing to lower U.S. cotton prices, which UGA forecast between 65 cents and 75 cents per pound. Rabinowitz forecast net cotton return of $310 per acre for irrigated land and $90 an acre for non-irrigated 

land (not counting land rent).
After 2017’s record peanut production, a significant reduction in peanut acreage last year pushed production down, but ending stocks of more than two billion pounds are still the third highest in 10 years.

Prices near $425 per ton are possible for the 2019 peanut crop. UGA forecasts a net return of $270 per irrigated acre for peanuts and $90 per non-irrigated acre, minus land rent.

Rabinowitz said prices for Georgia corn would likely be around $4.50- $4.60 per bushel, but the big question surrounding U.S. corn is whether strong exports continue. Corn acreage is likely to increase in 2019 because of lower soybean prices relative to corn. Corn net return is forecast at $280 per irrigated acre and $65 per non-irrigated acre (minus land rent).

Soybean producers are likely to decrease acreage in 2019 due to lower commodity prices. Soybeans have been under tremendous pressure related to the trade conflict with China, which has resulted in diminished exports and increased stocks. The soybean outlook is highly dependent on China, which has decreased soybeans fed to its hogs.

The net return on soybeans is forecast at $240 per irrigated acre and $45 per non-irrigated acre, minus land rent.

Input costs for 2019 are a “mixed bag,” Rabinowitz said, with fertilizer, machinery, labor and interest all increasing, while seed and chemical prices vary, land values and cash rents remain stable and diesel decreases.

Livestock forecast

UGA Center for Agribusiness & Economic Development Director Kent Wolfe reviewed factors affecting livestock prices. Combined, poultry, beef and pork production are forecast to double from 2018 to 2020 over the average between 2013 and 2017.

Wolfe noted a decline in heifer retention and increase in slaughter of beef cattle. Calf prices have declined since 2014.

Poultry prices fell over the second half of 2018. Wolfe noted retailers began promoting more beef and pork over chicken last summer and fall.

Increased pork production has created downward pressure on pork prices. Wolfe said China’s domestic pig population is being affected by African Swine Fever.