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Farmers making planting decisions for 2012

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — The lower input costs of corn give it some advantages for Mississippi Delta farmers choosing between corn and cotton for 2012.

Farmers will be making planting decisions through February.

Jerry Singleton, an agent with the Leflore County Extension Service, tells the Greenwood Commonwealth the key for farmers is deciding which has the best profit potential.

“This time a year ago, prices were moving upward. … Today prices are favorable but not as good as last year,” said Singleton.

Based on current cotton prices, cotton acreage will be down, Singleton said.

“Cotton is a headache to grow, compared to corn and soybeans. It has higher input costs,” he said.

He said some larger farmers may still plant cotton simply because their operations are equipped with cotton pickers and other specialized equipment.

He said corn planting will begin in the first half of March, depending on the weather. Typically, cotton planting begins in the Delta in the first part of May.

Jim Thomas, who farms in Leflore and Holmes counties, said he is still undecided.

“I guess nothing is certain until you put it in the ground. I’m leaning a little more to corn than cotton,” he said.

Thomas said the farmers he’s talked to seem to agree.

“They are going to be planting less cotton and more corn,” he said. “Some are talking about peanuts; they have a good price on them.”

Peanuts might be the sleeper crop of 2012 for the Delta, he said. Like cotton, they are planted the first part of May.

“The drought in Texas decreased the peanut supply,” Thomas said.

Another farmer, Erle West Barham, said the Delta now has the infrastructure necessary to handle grain as well as cotton. Barham said he’s closely watching commodity prices, looking for signs of which direction they will take.

“Right now, I’d say I’m leaning a little bit more to grains than cotton,” he said, adding, “I’ve had as much cotton last year as I ever had.”

Fortunately, the Delta’s soil and climate make it possible to grow several types of crops, Barham said. Besides peanuts, sweet potatoes also may be added to the mix of annual crops.

“That’s going to do nothing but give us more options,” Barham said.

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