Agriculture - April 2010

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), lack of precipitation and above-normal temperatures contributed to poor soil conditions in some areas of Alabama, and Georgia, and in parts of Mississippi. Dry soil hindered cotton planting in some areas, but most farm areas reported active field work.

Poultry production in 2009 was down 3.8 percent year over year, but, according to a recent USDA report, gradual increases are expected in 2010. The USDA expects a poultry production recovery this year driven by increasing domestic demand from improving economic conditions. Margins should improve this year if prices remain stable and feed costs are below last year's costs. However, poultry exports are expected to decrease in 2010 as a result of trade disputes with two major markets, Russia and China. U.S. broiler exports in early 2010 were down 14 percent from 2009. A large portion of the decrease was due to falling shipments to Russia and China.

According to USDA reports, the nation's cotton supply remains unchanged from last year at 12.4 million bales, while demand has been revised slightly upward. Cotton prices received by farmers in early 2010 were up almost 20 cents from a year earlier, close to peak prices seen in 2008.

According to industry contacts, the winter freeze was not as damaging to Florida's citrus crop as was previously reported. The USDA April orange crop forecast was up 600,000 boxes to 131.6 million for the 2009–10 year season, 1.6 percent higher than February estimates. Orange prices paid to farmers were up 27 cents from a year earlier despite soft consumer demand and competition from imported citrus.