Georgia's first planting intentions report for 2004 shows increased acreage for cotton, peanuts and soybeans, while growers say they'll plant fewer acres of corn, tobacco, wheat, oats and sorghum.

Farmers are expected to increase both peanut and cotton acreage by 4 percent this year, according to the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service.

“Final planting decisions will depend on weather conditions, financing, commodity prices and even reactions to this report,” says Dave Abbe, state statistician. “Overall, the winter months in Georgia were cooler and drier than normal.”

Georgia's cotton acreage in 2004 is expected to be 1,350,000 acres or 50,000 acres above the 2003 level. Growers expressed the view that cotton is still one of the better crop alternatives, says Abbe.

“Currently, prices are good and cotton is in demand worldwide,” he says. “Growers are optimistic about this cotton season.”

Peanut producers in Georgia plan to increase their planting by about 4 percent in 2004. If these early projections are realized, peanut acreage will total 565,000 acres or 20,000 acres above last year.

Corn planting for 2004 is expected to total 330,000 acres, according to growers' plans in early March. This would be a reduction of 3 percent from last year. Corn planting began in the southern part of the state in early March, and growers were irrigating to get the crop up.

Soybean acreage for 2004 is expected to increase to 230,000 acres or 40,000 acres or 21 percent above 2003. Provided these early plans materialize, soybean planting in Georgia will be the highest since 1998. Planting will start around the first part of May.

Tobacco growers in Georgia are planning a decrease in acreage from last year. Acreage for 2004 is expected to total 24,000 acres compared with 27,000 acres in 2003. Transplanting was just getting under way in early March.

Sorghum planting for 2004 is expected to total 50,000 acres or 5,000 acres less than in 2003. Growers continue to look for drought tolerant crops.

Wheat seeding for 2004 totaled 330,000 acres, down 50,000 acres from 2003. The cooler than normal winter months and dry weather have slowed plant growth.

Oats planted totaled 80,000 acres for 2004, down 20 percent from the 100,000 acres planted in 2003. Oat acreage still remains strong as growers look for alternatives to the higher costs of other small grains. Oats expected to be harvested for grain totaled 25,000 acres, down 17 percent from 2003.

Hay acreage expected to be harvested for 2004 is forecast at 650,000 acres, up 50,000 acres from last year.

e-mail: phollis@primediabusiness.com