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Fins, bolls rebound

Catfish and cotton show new life

While most producers enjoyed a bounce-back year in 2010, two commodities that many had given up for dead enjoyed Lazarus-like resurrections.

Mississippi’s catfish industry has been on a downward spiral for years. High input costs, rising foreign competition and other factors have driven many out of aquaculture.

That attrition led to an increase in the value of the state’s catfish this year, according to Roger Barlow, president of The Catfish Institute and executive vice president of Catfish Farmers of America. It is projected to be up a mere 1 percent compared to 2009.  But the state’s catfish had not registered an increase in value in four years.

“Supply is tight and demand is very strong,” said Barlow.

Meanwhile, cotton showed new life. Just a few years ago, many in the agriculture community were worried that cotton might be dead. The sharp drop in planting led to a major reduction in cotton infrastructure such as gins and storage facilities closed.

Last year only fed those fears. According to Darrin Dobbs, Extension crop specialist, growers’ yield averaged 687 pounds per acre in 2009, the lowest in nearly a decade.

Dobbs said the 2010 crop looked bad as late as August, then made a comeback. Now, he expects growers to see average yields right at the state record of 1,024 pounds per acre set in 2004.

The total value of cotton in 2010 is projected to be $363 million, an increase of 141 percent over 2009.

“Mississippi cotton had the best start to the season that we have seen in a long time; it warmed early, had plenty of soil moisture and very few replants,” Dobbs said.


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