Early drought, late rain hit 2002 North Carolina crops

The second year of the new millennium will likely linger in the memories of North Carolina producers as a bad one. Early drought, followed by wet weather at harvest, hurt yields and further damaged already dim cotton, corn, soybean and peanut prospects.

Fall rains caught much of the cotton still in the fields and affected quality as well as yield. Producers are expected to harvest 950,000 bales of cotton in North Carolina, 43 percent less than last year's 1.67 million bales. The forecasted state-average of 483 pounds is the lowest since 1999. Producers planted 945,000 acres of cotton in North Carolina, down from 965,000 in 2001.

Before Thanksgiving, some 71 percent of the crop was rated poor or very poor. U.S. cotton production is down 12 percent from last year's record-setting year.

In soybeans, the yield is forecast at 22 bushels per acre, which would be the lowest since 1983. Production, at 28.4 million bushels, is down 34 percent from last year. That would be the smallest crop since 1995 and the second lowest since 1977. North Carolina producers planted 1.29 million acres of soybeans in 2002, down from 1.35 million acres. U.S. soybean production is down 7 percent from last year.

Untimely rains at harvest put a severe hurt on peanuts, making it difficult for farmers to harvest the crop. Production in North Carolina is 38 percent below last year's level. U.S. peanut production is 18 percent below the 2001 level. North Carolina peanut producers reduced harvested acreage by more than 20,000 acres from the previous year. They harvested 100,000 acres in 2002, down from 122,500 acres in 2001.

All tobacco in the Tar Heel state also suffered. Production was down 9 percent from 2001 levels, falling from 386,920 pounds to 353,600 pounds in 2002.

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