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La. Farm Bureau/Radio Network‏

February 10, 2014

American Farm Bureau Welcomes 2014 Farm Bill

President Barack Obama signed the 2014 farm bill Friday on the campus of Michigan State University. After more than two years of dedicated work toward passage, farmers and ranchers from across the nation now have answers about how they can manage the many and varied risks they face in producing food and fiber, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

"It's been a bumpy road for the farm bill over the past several years, with many twists and turns, but farmers never gave up nor lost momentum in working toward its passage," Stallman said. "Farm Bureau believes this farm bill will give farmers and ranchers a measure of business certainty for this and coming years, allowing them to better manage risk while carrying out the important business of providing food and jobs for America."

Stallman credited congressional Agriculture Committee leaders, House Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), House Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Senate Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Senate Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), for their leadership, perseverance and cooperation during what was a long, difficult and politically charged farm bill cycle.

Including the cuts already made through sequestration, the Farm Bill will save $23 billion over the next 10 years. It will enhance rural economies with additional jobs, invest in research and education and include reform that works for farm and ranch families. Importantly, the bill also provides disaster provisions for livestock producers and fruit and vegetable growers.

Now signed into law, the 2014 law will allow the Agriculture Department to begin planning for implementation of the bill's provisions.

Louisiana Should Gain Cotton Acres in 2014

U.S. cotton producers intend to plant 11.26 million acres of cotton this spring, up 8.2 percent from 2013, according to the National Cotton Council's 31st Annual Early Season Planting Intentions Survey. Upland cotton intentions are 11.04 million acres, up 8.1 percent from 2013, while extra-long staple (ELS) intentions of 225,000 acres represent an 11.8 percent increase. The survey results were announced today at the NCC's 2014 Annual Meeting being held in Washington, DC, February 7-9.

Dr. Gary Adams, the NCC's vice president Economics & Policy Analysis, said that, "Planted acreage is just one of the factors that will determine supplies of cotton and cottonseed. Ultimately, weather, insect pressures, and agronomic conditions play a significant role in determining crop size." He said that with expected abandonment for the United States at roughly 15 percent, Cotton Belt harvested area totals 9.59 million acres. Weighting individual state yields by 2014 area generates a U.S. average yield per harvested acre of 819 pounds. Applying each state's yield to its 2014 projected harvested acres generates a cotton crop of 16.37 million bales, with 15.72 million bales of upland and 657,000 bales of ELS. If realized, that would be an increase of 3.2 million bales from the current USDA estimate of the 2013 crop.

The NCC questionnaire, mailed in mid-December 2013 to producers across the 17-state Cotton Belt, asked producers for the number of acres devoted to cotton and other crops in 2013 and the acres planned for the coming season. Survey responses were collected through mid-January.

Adams noted, "History has shown that U.S. farmers respond to relative prices when making planting decisions. Coming off of last year's 10.4 million acres of all cotton, the survey suggests that growers are again responding to relative prices by increasing the intended plantings by 8 percent, bringing total U.S. area to just shy of 11.3 million acres. However, as the state-level results will show, the increase is not universal across the states and production regions."

Survey respondents throughout the Southeast indicated a 1.2 percent decline, lowering the regional total to 2.63 million acres. Alabama, Georgia and Virginia intend to increase cotton acres, while growers in Florida and the Carolinas indicate declines. In Alabama and Virginia, the increase in cotton acres is coming at the expense of corn. For states reporting declines in cotton area, respondents in the Carolinas indicated a shift into soybeans, while Florida's cotton acreage is moving into peanuts.

In the Mid-South, survey results show that growers intend to plant 1.39 million acres, an increase of 12.5 percent. With the exception of Arkansas, all states indicate more cotton acres relative to 2013, with the largest percentage increase in Mississippi. In Arkansas, survey respondents indicated a 4.6 percent decline in cotton area was due to an expected increase in acres devoted to soybeans. Responses for Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee indicated an increase in cotton acres coming at the expense of corn. Louisiana is predicted to show a 20.7% increase from 130,000 in 2013 to 157,000 in 2014.

Southwest growers indicated a 12 percent increase, bringing the regional total to 6.74 million acres. In general, respondents indicated a shift out of grain and into cotton. For some respondents, improved moisture also is allowing some acres to be planted in 2014 that were left idle in 2013.

NCC delegates were reminded these expectations are a snapshot of intentions based on market conditions at survey time. Actual plantings will be influenced by changing market conditions and weather.

Sugarcane North Of I-10?

Farmers growing crops in Louisiana and Mississippi may soon have two new crops to add to their portfolios. Researchers with the LSU AgCenter, Mississippi State University Cooperative Extension Service and the United States Department of Agriculture are working together to bring sugarcane and sweet sorghum north - way north - of Interstate 10. "We're looking at these as crops producers can grow in addition to crops they're already growing," said Donal Day, project manager for the LSU AgCenter's Sustainable Bioproducts Initiative. "We're looking at how producers in the northern areas of Louisiana and Mississippi can grow these crops to help supplement their incomes." The cane being tested for growing in northern locations is called "energycane" and is grown for the high fiber rather than sugar it produces. Researchers say the crop can be used to provide feedstock for biorefineries to use in producing biofuels. The researchers are testing five types of energycane at locations in Tifton, Ga., Athens, Ga., Starkville, Miss., Raymond, Miss., St. Gabriel, La., College Station, Texas, Beaumont, Texas, and Waimanalo, Hawaii, as part of the U.S. Dept. of Energy's Herbaceous Feedstocks partnership.

"Creating an energycane variety that is cold-tolerant will extend the range of cultivation and allow for producers outside the traditional cane growing areas to produce energycane crops," said Collins Kimbeng, a plant breeder with the LSU AgCenter. "Creating cold-tolerant varieties also will allow for energycane to be grown later in the winter months, prolonging the growing season and enabling producers to produce crops for longer periods of time." In addition to creating a new breed of cane, researchers also are studying management practices involved with growing energycane in colder temperatures. LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist Kenneth Gravois said management practices being studied include fertility management and planting depths and, further north, row spacing."Our goal is to produce an energycane crop with minimal inputs, such as reduced nitrogen rates and reduced cultivation," Gravois said.

Researchers also are studying sweet sorghum as another feedstock. According to Sonny Viator, an LSU AgCenter professor and resident coordinator of the Iberia Research Station, sweet sorghum has been identified as a high-producing sugar crop that creates juice that can be used to make biofuels and biochemicals. Just as the fiber in energycane is used to produce biofuels, the juice in sweet sorghum is used to make butanol, ethanol and other products.

The researchers are trying to determine the potential for producing sweet sorghum from midsummer to the first frost by varying the timing of planting and using plants of different maturity levels. That combination of planting dates and differing maturities allows the sorghum to be available for harvest over a sustained period of about three months.

Traditionally, the best planting period for sweet sorghum in Louisiana has been from mid-April to mid-May, with harvest in August. This study is looking at a production model of harvesting sweet sorghum beginning in July and extending until early November. Following that, energycane would be harvested until spring, when, perhaps, a third crop would be available.

After the energycane and sweet sorghum have been harvested, the crops can be brought to a processing plant, such as the LSU AgCenter's pilot plant at the Audubon Sugar Institute in St. Gabriel, La. The pilot plant processes the crops to produce juice, syrup and bagasse for use in the biofuels industry.

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