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Hard rain good start to growing season
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     This past weekend, we were the recipients of a "million dollar rain". That's right. According to local University of Georgia county agent Wes Harris, it was a well timed and much needed deluge that may lay the foundation for a good growing season for local farmers.
      "On average, I think we got about 2.5 inches of rain here in Bulloch County," Harris said. "When everything begins to bloom and turn green, it takes a lot of moisture out of the soil. We certainly weren't in an extreme drought situation, but we were going to have some difficulty if we didn't get rain. This really put us back in a good position."
      So with a million dollar rain under our belts, where does that leave the local farmer? What crops should we expect to see growing (bountifully, I hope) as we cruise along Bulloch County's scenic roadways.
      "There are a couple of factors that come into play," he said. "First, fertilizer costs are still at much higher than historical prices, but they have come down some. Secondly, the demand for peanuts is down for a couple of reasons. We had enough peanuts to supply a 30 percent carry over from last year, and with the salmonella scare, product demand is down overall."
      Harris said he expects a 30 percent reduction in peanut acreage being planted this year. So, if local farmers aren't planting as many peanuts, what are they planting? Soybeans. "They don't require as much fertilizer, thus they are cheaper to put in the ground and grow," he said. "Prices are holding, and the demand is there."
      Cotton and corn are still strong even though there has been some reduction in demand. Harris said he expects 80,000 of Bulloch County's 100,000 acres of farm land to be planted with row crops this Spring. "Another 10,000 acres will be in grass and hay. Probably around 10,000 will not be cultivated at all."
      "I think the best way to describe the 'mood' of the farming community is optimistic, but defensive and conservative at the same time. With the price of inputs such as fertilizer and diesel fuel going down, I think farmers see some opportunity to have a good year, but they are going to be very conservative in how they go about it by reducing their risk as much as possible. However, as conservative as they may be this Spring, they aren't going to park everything under the shed."