Tennessee farmers hoping to sow corn, reap profits

Associated Press • May 11, 2007 at 9:12 AM

CHATTANOOGA - Despite some inclement weather, farmers are hoping to make a big profit in corn this year, planting more acreage of the crop than any time since World War II.

Prices are up more than 50 percent since last summer because of a demand for ethanol that is expected to nearly triple in the next three years, and Tennessee farmers have planted 42 percent more acres of corn this year compared to last, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"In previous years, we were lamenting that higher fuel costs were hurting farm income," said Delton Gerloff, a University of Tennessee agricultural professor who specializes in corn production. "But now those same high prices are helping to boost the income of those growing corn and other crops used to make ethanol."

The Tennessee Corn Growers Association estimates more than 25 percent of farmers had to replant after an April freeze killed off their seedlings.

"The frost hit all of us real hard this year," said Paul Glover, a retired farmer who serves with the association. "Most have been able to get seed and have replanted, but it isn't always what they preferred and started out with."

Marion County farmer David Wooden had to replant his fields for the first time in his 69 years.

"If we get a good yield, the higher prices definitely will help," he said. "But last year, we only got a half yield because of the dry weather, and that definitely hurt us."

Despite the increased production, Tennessee farmers still grow more cotton, soybeans and tobacco than corn. But that could change if prices remain high. "Farming is always a risky business because you never know how production and prices will end up," said James Haskew, president of the Marion County Farm Bureau. "But it's looking pretty good right now."

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