Newton agriculture expert offers bleak look at farming
By By William F. West / community editor
Oct. 6, 2002
NEWTON An agricultural expert here offers a pessimistic outlook for the farming business unless some things change.
But Lee said farmers are at a disadvantage because they cannot use the same chemicals and technologies available to competitor nations who also provide price supports to their farmers.
Lee favors more government support for agriculture.
Lee said the soybean market has declined so much that the acreage in his county has dropped from about 8,000 in the early 1990s to as low as 2,500. He said a reason for the price decline is the international competition for soybeans as a feed ingredient for livestock.
He said about 3,500 acres were planted in corn and about 400 acres were planted in cotton, but row-crop farming is expensive and large-scale. He said dry-land farming is also difficult.
Lee said much of Newton County has been converted to timber land, but lumber prices also have declined the past several months.
Some agribusinesses seem to be busy in Newton County. Lee said there are about 26,000 head of cattle including about 2,000 head of dairy cows. He also said there are about 350 farms with poultry houses.
Roy Higdon of the extension service in Clarke County said about two or three people in his county are what could be called full-time farmers. He said about 74 percent of the county's land is now in timber, with much of the remaining land in pastures.
Higdon said the situation prompted many farmers to seek nine to five jobs, manufacturing jobs or work on oil rigs. They remained in farming only as a hobby.
Higdon and some other extension directors were glad to see the rain from Tropical Storm Isidore.
Harvin Hudson, extension director in Neshoba County, said his county had a good summer until a dry spell in August and September. "But now it's coming back," he said.
Most of Neshoba County is in timber, thanks in part to federal conservation incentive programs to prevent erosion, Hudson said. But poultry remains Neshoba County's No. 1 agribusiness.
Ruby Rankin, extension director in Kemper County, also was upbeat about the rain on the parched land.
But she said something unusual happened to lands that were converted from pastures into forests.