Wheat and peanut acreage is expected to increase by about 20 percent in North Carolina’s 2012 crop season and cotton is projected to be the big loser, with projected plantings down to 700,000 acres this season.

Peanut acreage has been on a steady downward trend over the past decade or so, but high prices and concerns over the volatility of cotton prices is apparently encouraging farmers to increase peanut acreage to fill the gap in the loss of cotton acreage.

The cotton industry is still reeling from the giddy prices of $2 a pound and higher just a couple of years back. As the industry struggles to regain loss of market share, based on the historic high prices, the price of 2012 cotton has some built-in instability that is encouraging North Carolina growers to cut back on cotton acreage.

North Carolina is a leader in swine and poultry production, and the state struggles to produce enough grain to feed its booming livestock industry. Like other Southeastern states, North Carolina is still listed as a grain-deficit state, despite big increases in grain crop production over the past few years.

In 2012 North Carolina growers are expected to increase production of soybeans, wheat and corn — all major components of feeding rations for the state’s livestock industry.

According the recently released planting intention survey by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Industry, corn acreage is expected to increase by about three percent to 900,000 acres, soybeans by about 4 percent to 1.43 million acres, and wheat by about 19 percent and as much as 150,000 acres more than the 2011 crop.

Peanuts are expected to have the single largest acreage increase in North Carolina this year, and the Tar Heel state isn’t alone in peanut increases for 2012.

In South Carolina, growers are projected to produce nearly 95,000 acres of peanuts, and Virginia estimates of acreage increase range from 10-15 percent.

Peanut contracts in the Virginia-Carolina region are ranging from $600 to $750 per ton and growers appear to be taking advantage of the price increase.

In North Carolina projections are for about 100,000 acres of peanuts in 2012, a jump of 22 percent over the 2011 crop.