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Virginia growers expected to plant additional cotton, peanuts

virginia-blue-oversizeAfter a cold and wet early spring, Virginia farmers are ready to get their crops in the ground. Corn plantings across the state are behind schedule. Cotton and peanut producers are expecting to plant more acres this year, while producers of other major row crops are pulling back a bit.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s spring planting survey findings released March 31, cotton plantings are expected to increase 5 percent, to 82,000 acres. Virginia peanut producers are expected to plant 18,000 acres this year, an increase of 2,000 from 2013. Both crops are grown almost exclusively in Southeast Virginia.

The decision by growers to increase their plantings was not made in haste and was not prompted solely by price trends, said Jonah Bowles, senior agriculture market analyst with the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

“You need special equipment to pick cotton or peanuts,” Bowles said. “So you’re not going to see those producers respond to prices as much as your average corn and wheat producer” who can use the same tractors and harvesters for both crops.

In addition, many row crop producers in Southeast Virginia rotate crops among corn, soybeans, wheat, peanuts and cotton, Bowles said. So sometimes they plant a crop not because they expect to make a profit, but because it is the year that crop needs to be planted to break insect and disease cycles.

There also are global market conditions to consider.

“With cotton in particular, when a producer looks at the upcoming year or two and evaluates his profitability, it has nothing to do with domestic demand,” Bowles said. “He looks to export demand and foreign buyers’ ability to purchase his crop. Indonesia and Vietnam and Pakistan are just some of our destination markets for cotton.”

U.S. cotton plantings are expected to rise 7 percent from 2014, according to the survey. Virginia corn plantings are expected to decrease by 10,000 acres to 500,000. Nationwide corn plantings are expected to decline 4 percent from last year’s levels, although they still will be among the largest corn plantings on record since 1944, according to the usda.

Soybean plantings nationwide are expected to be at a record-high 81.5 million acres, while Virginia soybean plantings are estimated to remain the same as last year’s 600,000 acres. Virginia’s winter wheat plantings decreased 9 percent last fall from the previous year’s level, to 290,000 acres.

The usda surveyed farmers March 1, and some are still in this year’s planning stages, so the survey findings serve as a first estimate of how this year’s crop season will play out.

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