The overall projected totals for Mississippi's crop values should top $7 billion for the third straight year, experts say, despite low prices for some goods.
John Michael Riley, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said his preliminary estimate of 2014 is over $7.7 billion. Final figures will be available in May.
"The row crops sector of the agricultural economy took a bit of hit, but there were pockets of that sector that saw improvements, such as cotton and rice," Riley said. "On the bright side, the livestock sector is doing well with all three segments — beef cattle, dairy cattle and hogs — showing double-digit improvements, percentage wise, from the previous year."
Poultry remained in first place with a $3.13 billion projected total value. At $2.88 billion, broilers showed a slight increase from 2013. Egg values were up nearly 10 percent, reflecting strong demand and price.
Forestry is the state's No. 2 commodity. It saw a 13.8 percent increase in value, driven by an improvement in housing starts. At $1.28 billion in 2014, the state's forest harvest value has increased 48 percent since 2009, when the effects of the recession first began to hit the industry.
James Henderson, an associate forestry professor with the MSU Extension Service, said he expects this positive trend to continue.
"Expectations are for a nearly 20 percent increase in total U.S. housing starts in 2015 as more first-time buyers enter the housing market," Henderson said.
Soybeans — Mississippi's top row crop — was third overall with a preliminary estimated value of $1.17 billion. Producers harvested about 200,000 more acres more than the previous year, for a total of about 2.19 million harvested acres. The projected yield of 52 bushels per acre, if realized, would set a record.
"We saw a much lower price for soybeans than in 2013," Riley said. "However, the second largest crop ever produced in the state offset most of the drop in prices."
Here are additional highlights from the report:
Cotton was No. 4 with an estimated value this year at $403.6 million.
Darrin Dodds, cotton specialist with the Extension Service, said producers planted 420,000 acres in cotton in 2014, up from 295,000 last year.
"Like last year, we were late planting because of cool wet weather," Dodds said. "We were worried about time on the back end to make a crop, but fortunately, we had a long fall and got some hot weather in September, which helped tremendously."
Cattle was No. 5 with an estimated production value of $396.7 million, up 33 percent from 2013.
Riley said cattle remain in short supply after drought-inspired sell-offs. With consumer demand remaining strong and feed costs remaining low, the outlook for 2015 looks promisin
Corn was sixth at $349.6 million; its lowest overall value since 2009.
"Mississippi producers dropped from 830,000 to 520,000 harvested acres of corn and saw about a $1.73 drop per bushel in price. With a current projected price of $3.62 per bushel, it's the lowest price we've seen since 2006," Riley said.
Riley said the 55.3 percent drop in corn from 2013's values was more of an issue of lower acres than lower prices.
While the catfish industry has declined for several years, production has been steady since the significant decrease in water acres in 2010-2011.
"The price has come up 20 cents per pound based on the lower supply, and that has kept those who decided to stay in the industry going," Riley said. "The drop in soybean price has helped this industry as well."
Total production of catfish is down 13.4 million pounds in 2013 to 156.9 million total pounds in 2014. The combined total value for catfish, stockers, fingerlings and fry is $197.3 million, up 11.1 percent.
Rice prices and acres were up. Producers harvested 190,000 acres with a yield of 7,200 hundredweight and a price of $13.68 per hundredweight. Rice was No. 8 spot with an estimated value of $174 million.
Hog producers saw a 21.5 percent increase this year, with an estimated production value of about $153 million and a No. 9 ranking in 2014.
"Short supply due to the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus that was causing piglets to die was the biggest factor, so we had an overall drop in production across the U.S.," Riley said. "The smaller supply caused the price increase. Mississippi producers increased their hog inventories a few years ago, and while they've pulled back a little because of the virus, inventories are much higher than in previous years."
Specialty crops were ranked 10th with a preliminary value of $113.6 million. The industry includes nursery and ornamental plants.
Hay fell three spots to No. 11, with a $105.3 million production value, down 11.4 percent.
Sweet potatoes saw increased acres and prices, resulting in a preliminary crop value of $96.2 million for 12th on the list.
Other 2014 crop values and their percentage changes compared to 2013 are wheat at $66.9 million, down 57.2 percent; milk at $44.6 million, up 10.1 percent; grain sorghum at $39.3 million, up 37.8 percent; and peanuts at $20.8 million, down 30.7 percent.