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Agriculture Retains Economic Stronghold
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's total value of farm and forest production in 1999 is expected to hold near the $5 billion mark despite depressed market prices and another challenging growing season for many of the state's crops.
Mississippi's total commodities, which include poultry, forestry, crops, catfish and livestock, have been estimated to have a market value of more than $4.6 billion for 1999, a decrease of about 2 percent from 1998. Increased government payments will bring the total gross receipts to just over $5 billion.
"When all the indirect and secondary affects are taken into account, agriculture and forestry account for more than 26 percent of the Mississippi economy," said Dr. John Lee, head of agricultural economics at Mississippi State University. "No other sector in the state's economy can claim that much economic impact."
Lee said poultry products, timber and catfish combine to account for about two-thirds of the value of all agriculture and forest production in Mississippi.
"While those three products have done well in recent years, the values of cotton, corn soybeans and rice production have declined from their 1998 levels and even more from their 1997 levels," Lee said. "Producers of these crops face the prospects of another difficult year in 2000."
According to figures released by MSU agricultural economists, the estimated value of Mississippi's poultry products was $1.5 billion and forestry was $1.3 billion. Crops, which include row and truck crops, are estimated at $1.1 billion. The changes in those values since 1997 reveal an increase of 13 percent in poultry, a decrease of 28 percent in total crops and little change in forestry.
"The values of poultry products, catfish, horticultural crops and several other commodities increased in value in 1999, but the market values of cotton, soybeans, corn and rice were down sharply as a result of the lowest prices in recent history," Lee said. "As a result of those low prices, federal assistance to producers could be up as much as one-third over 1998."
Preliminary estimates indicate Mississippi farmers will have received $375 million in government assistance in 1999, an increase of 186 percent from 1997.
Dr. Barry Barnett, agricultural economist at MSU, said Congress passed two one-time payment bills to help farmers through the extremely low market prices of 1999 and provide some disaster assistance as well. These bills were in addition to the market loan program which has been in place since the mid-1980s. The market loan program also provides money to farmers whenever prices are below certain thresholds.
"The additional bills were passed because the market loan program wasn't adequate to compensate for the extremely low market prices this year," Barnett said. "Even though prices will certainly remain low for at least another year or two, farmers can't assume additional government money will be there."
The more drastic crop value changes occurred in corn and soybeans. Corn decreased 21 percent from 1998 to an estimated value of $69 million, which is 48 percent below the 1997 value. Soybeans decreased 17 percent from 1998 to an estimated value of almost $240 million, which is 46 percent below the 1997 value.
Mississippi's No. 1 crop, poultry, had an estimated value of $1.53 billion in 1999. It is the first and only agricultural industry in the state to top $1.5 billion in farm value. Despite lower market prices, poultry value increased slightly due to an increase in broiler weight and numbers.
The No. 2 crop, forestry, was estimated at $1.33 billion, down just 3 percent from 1998's record year and still above the 1997 value. Saw-timber markets were firm, while pulpwood markets were weak.
Cotton was estimated at $481 million, with depressed market prices forcing the value down 5 percent since 1998 and 25 percent since 1997. Mississippi acreage increased to 1.18 million acres from 760,000 the previous year to help increase the total production figure for the year, despite a drop in average yield.
Economists estimated the value of catfish at $317 million for an estimated gain of 19 percent since 1997. Livestock, including cattle/calves, milk and hogs, is estimated at $291 million, just 1 percent below the previous year.
Contact: Dr. John Lee, (662) 325-2750