By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan (R) reported on Facebook Tuesday that 2013 is shaping up to be a good year for Alabama farmers.
Commissioner McMillan reports, “Alabama’s weekly crop report is out and crop and livestock conditions across the state are remarkably good with soil moisture and crop development at or near where they should be for this time of the year. Recent rainfall has been enough to keep soil moisture where it needs to be to stay up with evaporation rates, but not too much to prevent farmers from tending to crops in the fields. All in all, it’s shaping up to be a good year for Alabama farmers.”
In the “average year,” Alabama receives plenty of rain, the problem Alabama farmers face is that there can be wild fluctuations between years. Some years the state can be in the midst of a severe drought. In other years, monsoon-like rains can fall from late March to late June preventing farmers from planting their crops in the water logged fields. This year there was a unusually cool spring that delayed farmers start of planting, but the Alabama Agriculture Department report indicates that Alabama farmers have overcome that late start.
The promise of average years meant that historically many Alabama farmers have been slow to adopt irrigation systems. The problem with risking the weather is that dry soil conditions or a midsummer drought can dramatically reduce the likelihood that a crop will produce a good harvest. Farmers in Georgia were early embracers of irrigation technology and as a result today Georgia has 1.4 million more acreage planted in the major crops (corn, wheat, soybeans, and peanuts) than Alabama does.
The poultry business is Alabama’s largest agricultural product sector. Commissioner McMillan reported that, “Placement of broiler chicks in Alabama during the week ending June 29, 2013 was 21.9 million, up 5 percent from the previous week, and up 5 percent from the comparable week last year, according to the USDA, NASS Alabama Field Office. An estimated 28.3 million broiler type eggs were set by Alabama hatcheries, down slightly from the previous week, but up 2 percent from the comparable week a year earlier.”
Agriculture remains the largest industry in the state of Alabama followed by wood and wood products. Alabama farmers produce chickens, eggs, beef cattle, peanuts, horticultural items including flowering plants and shrubbery, tomatoes, cotton, peaches, pecans, soybeans, corn, and other crops.
The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries reports that Alabama farmers planted 3% less corn than last year. Peanut acreage is down 41%. The acreage planted in soybeans is up 24% and the winter wheat planting was up 32%. Cotton acreage is down 13%.
Commissioner McMillan announced recently that he is running for reelection. The popular Alabama Agriculture and Industries Commissioner was elected from a crowded field in 2010. The Baldwin County conservative Republican was previously Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Earlier in the year there were early indication that Tea Party activist Dale Peterson was going to challenge McMillan for the office, but memory issues that led too two arrests by the Hoover Polie Department have likely side-lined any candidacy for the outspoken Peterson.