Agriculture - March 2010

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), most areas of the District in February and early March experienced below-average temperatures and above-average precipitation. Wet soil hindered field work in some areas, and adverse weather affected conditions of some fruit, vegetable, and nursery crops in Alabama and Florida.

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 due to improving economic conditions. Poultry exports are expected to decrease in 2010 as a result of trade disputes with two major markets, Russia and China. Lower shipments to these markets have been partially offset by increased trade with other countries and a relatively weak dollar.

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 future prices continued to recover in late March, rising above the 75 cent mark. Prices paid to cotton farmers in January and February 2010 have stayed above 60 cents per pound, close to peak prices last seen in 2008.

According to industry contacts, the winter freeze was not as damaging to Florida's citrus crop as was previously reported. A recent market rally on orange juice futures has ended, led by news of higher-than-expected production potentials and falling consumer demand. Orange prices paid to farmers were up slightly in February compared with January prices and the weakening pace in late 2009 because of soft consumer demand and competition from imported citrus.