Agriculture - February 2010

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), recent wet weather and cold temperatures affected several regional crops, particularly winter crops in Alabama and Georgia. Meanwhile, Florida's vegetable, sugarcane, and citrus growers suffered minor losses as a result of the winter freeze.

According to recent USDA estimates, poultry production in 2010 will be flat or up only slightly from 2009, limited by uncertainties in domestic and global markets. Exports are forecast to be constrained by recently announced quotas and restrictions from Russia and uncertainties in U.S. trade relations with China. Russia and China are two of the nation's top poultry export markets. Fortunately, higher export sales to Cuba, Taiwan, Central America, and other countries have helped offset reduced sales.

According to the USDA, despite recent crop damage, the value of the region's cotton crop in 2009 was 22 percent higher than in 2008 mainly because of higher prices and higher yields. Mississippi, affected by bad weather, was the only District state to post lower production values in 2009. According to a University of Georgia economist, cotton acreage is likely to increase in 2010 because of a tightening of world supplies and a recovery in demand.

Prices paid to cotton farmers rose steadily during most of 2009, staying above 60 cents per pound in January, and close to peak prices last seen in late 2003 and 2008. USDA economists reported that demand for U.S. cotton should increase because of expected higher mill usage in major textile-producing countries.

The USDA revised Florida's citrus crop estimates down 4 percent in February as the state's citrus growers endured eight straight days of below-freezing temperatures that caused losses of orange and grapefruit crops. Orange prices continued to weaken through January because of soft consumer demand and competition from imported citrus.