In a hot commodity market like the one we have now, it is very easy to get too fixated on what commodity prices are.

Steve Troxler, North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, is urging farmers not to forget that the bottom line on a farm depends just as much on input costs, he said. “They should play a part in any decision on what to produce.”

In an agricultural forum presented by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture in conjunction with the Southern Farm Show, Troxler and other speakers agreed that despite the upward trend, farm commodity prices have gone up less than other commodity prices. They have also gone up less than the overall price index.

Still, Troxler was cheered to note that for the first time in five years, he was seeing a little more optimism among farmers than the year before.

Commodity prices rise and fall, but 2011 is shaping up as unique, said Troxler.

“I’ve never seen a situation where all the commodities we grow are attractive in price,” he said. “From commodity to commodity, all the prices that are out there look very, very attractive.”

Whatever happens with plantings of other crops, Troxler said he is expecting a huge increase in cotton production in the state.

Ironically, he said, when you look at profit margin versus risk, tobacco — long the big-money crop for Tar Heel farmers — is probably close to the bottom of the list.

“It is still a high-value crop. There is a profit margin available. But there is also a tremendous amount of risk and overhead involved.”

He predicted that some potential tobacco acreage might go into cotton or feed grains this year.

A Fremont, N.C., flue-cured grower said at a tobacco meeting later in the Show that migration of tobacco acreage to other crops is quite possible this season.