The early rains of 2003 set records and delayed planting in much of the upper Southeast.

In North Carolina, for example, 44 percent of the state had a soil moisture surplus, a big turnaround from last year's drought.

Soggy fields depleted nutrients, increased pest pressure and delayed small grain harvest in June, according to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture Ag Statistics Division.

Rains in May and June pushed planting behind schedule, forcing some farmers to switch from planting corn to soybeans.

In some cases, the rain has contributed to a decline in planted acreage for some crops.

Cotton plantings lagged because of the excessive rain. Some growers were forced to replant the drowned-out acreage, while others had to switch to soybeans. Cotton acreage in North Carolina is estimated at 850,000, down 10 percent from last year. This is the lowest acreage since 1998, when 710,000 acres were planted.

Soybeans have benefited from the rain, however. Acreage is estimated at 1.43 million, an increase of 5 percent or 70,000 acres over 2002. This will be the largest soybean acreage in North Carolina since 1998, when 1.48 million acres were planted. Some acreage initially meant for cotton was planted to soybeans because of the wet conditions.

Corn acres are down in North Carolina by about 6 percent at 740,000 acres.

Peanut acreage is down 11 percent to 90,000 acres in North Carolina. That's the lowest number of acres since records on peanuts were first kept in 1909.

Flue-cured tobacco acreage is down 5 percent to 154,000 acres this year. The drop is approximately the decrease in this year's quota. Growers completed planting despite the wet conditions.

Burley growers also saw a 5 percent decrease in acres this year at 6,000 acres.

Late planting dates and extreme moisture continued to impact wheat yields. North Carolina growers anticipated harvesting 420,000 acres of wheat this year, down 13 percent from 2002 levels.

e-mail: cyancy@primediabusiness.com