Georgia's Drought Impacts Cattle Production

If you want to see a clear sign of the effects of the 2016 drought, look no further than livestock auction receipts for the week of November 11. Georgia cattlemen took 3,600 more cattle to the sale than they did during the same period in 2015. That's an increase of over 46 percent. For the year as a whole, 5,600 more head have hit the auction, obviously a large part of that coming in the latter half of the year as pastures quickly degraded.

Chart, forage conditions, and November 22 drought map are below. Praise the Lord we've had some rain in December.

Cattle and Calves Receipts

Data from 20 Georgia auctions. Source: Georgia Cattleman, December 2016

Pasture Conditions Weed Ending 11/13/2016

Georgia Drought Nov. 22

David Wildy, Southeastern Farmer of the Year


David Wildy, a diversified row crop farmer from Manila, Arkansas, is the 2016 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year.

Wildy farms more than 12,000 acres in the rich Delta soils of northeast Arkansas. His fifth-generation farm produces cotton, corn, soybeans and wheat. This year marks his second year of growing peanuts and first growing potatoes.

In 2015, Wildly Family Farms averaged 1,180 pounds of lint for cotton, 220 bushels of corn, 65 bushels of soybeans, 6,900 pounds of peanuts, 75 bushels of wheat per acres.

Read more about Wildy's recognition at Growing Georgia and visit the farm website.


Enterprise Budget: Sea Island Red Peas

Sea Island Red Peas growing on the Georgia coast, May 2015. These peas are seeded and harvested by hand.

Sea Island Red Peas growing on the Georgia coast, May 2015. These peas are seeded and harvested by hand.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been working with a farm in the Georgia Lowcountry to create a detailed enterprise budget for Sea Island Red Peas. The farmer has been producing this specialty heirloom crop for several years. Demand, particularly among chefs, is still on the rise. Although sales have been steady, the farmer requested some diagnostic financial tools to assess whether he was pricing his crop accurately and--frankly--whether production, post-harvest processing, and marketing were really worth his time. Outside of some tillage work, most of the operation is performed by hand, which, over the long term, carries an unacceptable level of risk in taking the crop from seed to market. Hopefully, the new enterprise budget will give the farmer a lens to analyze his operation, help him see what constellation of yield volume, cost, price, and labor points would suggest purchasing machinery, and support his case when it's time to go before a lender. 

This particular enterprise budget cannot be published because it is sensitive and proprietary. Keeping it private protects the farmer's opportunity cost to grow a finicky crop in a challenging and often extreme environment. 

However, universities and nonprofits across the country do excellent work publishing an array of enterprise budgets, preparing farmers to make informed decisions before planting and after final sales. Below are several good enterprise budgets for Southern field peas. I will also link back to this page in Resources. 

Genetically modified crops on the rise

The June 30 crop progress report, besides signaling the smallest U.S. corn crop since 2010, had some interesting data about actual plantings of GM crops in 2014. Despite calls from consumer groups and activists across the country to label genetically-modified organisms or ban them altogether, farmers continue to purchase and plant these crops to the point of almost complete market saturation. Planted acreage in each of the major commodities with herbicide tolerance and/or insect resistance increased over 2013:

  • Corn: up 3 points to 93%
  • Soybeans: up 1 point to 94%
  • All cotton: up 6 points to 96%

Cotton's surge in 2014 places it ahead of soybeans in total percentage of planted acres for the first time ever. The data doesn't suggest whether this jump owes to good marketing or Southern farmers' attempts to combat herbicide-resistant pigweed (more on the circular logic of controlling superweeds at another time). 

The charts from USDA ERS below track the rapid adoption of GM crops since their introduction. The data does not include information from 2014. Note that crops with stacked traits--Bt (insect resistance) and herbicide tolerance together--comprise the majority of planted acres in both corn and cotton.