The production picture for traditional Southern crops was a bit murkier in February than it has been in the last two years.

There was curious news from the National Cotton Council. On Feb. 8, it announced that according to its grower survey, cotton plantings nationwide would be up 8.2 percent from 2013. But plantings in the Southeast – including Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and Alabama – would be down 1.2 percent.

The survey indicates a 5.3 percent drop in North Carolina cotton and a planned decrease of 3.7 percent in South Carolina.

But Virginia reported the largest increase in the region at 4.1 percent, followed by Alabama at 2.9 percent and Georgia at 0.1 percent. Florida indicated a decline of 10.9 percent.

In Alabama and Virginia, the increase in cotton acres is coming at the expense of corn, the survey said. Respondents in the Carolinas indicated a shift into soybeans while Florida’s cotton acreage is moving into peanuts.

The prospects seemed better in general for peanut producers. “We anticipate a fairly good year, although the contract price of $525 is less than last year,” said Bob Sutter, CEO of the North Carolina Peanut Growers Association. “But they will plant what they can for that amount. That price will likely generate an acreage very similar to last year, in the 80,000-to-85,000-acre range.”

Thanks to two excellent years, peanut growers have been able to rebuild their production infrastructure. “I think most have updated their equipment by now and are ready to plant when conditions are right,” said Sutter.

Demand continues to be strong, but there is a logistic problem: shellers are running way behind on processing the 2013 crop. Exports are still up, though not as strong as a year ago.

In South Carolina, Extension peanut specialist Scott Monfort said at the South Carolina state peanut meeting in Santee Jan. 30, “We anticipate acreage this year will go up a little bit, but we don’t expect the big jump we had in 2012. We need to maintain our peanut acreage in order to facilitate crop rotation.”

But there is considerable thought that the Palmetto State hasn’t reached its cruising speed in peanut production. “We have tremendous potential for the development of peanuts,” said Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers at the meeting. “The recent announcement of more buying stations in South Carolina is very encouraging.”