Large acreage shifts and high yields marked Louisiana agricultural production in 2007. Many acres shifted from cotton to corn, and wheat acres also rose. Overall, Louisiana farmers had a strong year, according to Kurt Guidry, Louisiana State University AgCenter economist.

“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 says. “We had a phenomenal year in corn. Our five-year average was probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 135 bu./acre. We did 170 bu. last year,” Guidry says.

The economist says 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 USDA reported that the average price of corn in 2007 was $3.50/bu., Guidry says. “If you look back over the past 25 years, that would put it in the top 5% that we've seen. The same is true for grain sorghum.”

Soybean prices were high in 2007, and futures prices for 2008 look even better, he says.

FARMERS NEEDED HIGH prices and high yields to make a profit because production costs continued to risein 2007. “Fuel was up around 8% according to the USDA,” Guidry says. “Fertilizer prices for 2007 were up about 17-18% 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. He predicts 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 Louisiana 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 growers normally plant. “The only things that stopped wheat acreage from climbing even higher are some weather problems and seed availability,” Guidry says.

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

“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 looks to be every bit as strong as 2007, and in some cases could be a lot stronger than we saw in 2007,” Guidry says.