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Rice looks to break yield record
Mississippi's hot and dry summer has produced a potentially record-breaking rice harvest while other crops have shown lighter yields.

At 6,900 pounds per acre - 500 more than the 2005 yield of 6,400 pounds per acre, the rice crop is poised to match the record high set in 2004, according to forecasts by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Statistics Service.

"That was a record yield. But I really think we'll be above that 6,900 pounds. I think we'll be in the 7,000 (pound) range," said Nathan Buehring, rice specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Later in the year a more complete harvest report will be available, said Serial Kenerson, deputy director of the United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service in Jackson.

"The yields are down on all of the crops with the exception of rice," Kenerson said.

Most of the state was affected by extremely dry and hot weather.

However pockets of the state - such as the Delta - where some growers irrigated their crops had more success, he said.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns declared every county in the state a disaster area, and farmers are eligible for emergency loans to offset the lost crops. Farmers should contact their local Farm Service Agency office for loan information.

Among the reasons rice growers had better success is because rice is grown in water, there were fewer cloudy days and the direct sunlight helped the crop, Buehring said.

And parts of south Mississippi also fared well, said Ben Burkett, who grew vegetables near Hattiesburg with good results.

"I'm going to say my crops on this end did fairly good. We had a little heat damage," Burkett said. "We never did get that shortage of rain."

A smaller area of rice - 189,000 acres - is expected to be harvested this year, compared to 263,000 acres in 2005.

The 2005 rice crop was valued at $127 million. Farmers did not get rich, selling 16.8 million pounds of rice at $7.55 per hundred-pound weight. The crop was third only to cotton that was valued at $468.6 million, and soybeans that were valued at $341.2 million.

Weeks ago rice sold for $10 per hundred weight, but the price dropped when a biotech variety of rice was found in rice that had gotten into the market. A surplus of rice available on the market also acted to lower prices.

Current market price is slightly under $10 per hundred weight.

It will cause some farmers to hold back part of their harvest until the market saturation eases around March, Buehring said.

"They hold some for a better price instead of selling it all up front," Buerhing said.
MGR Archive 24.9.2006
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