The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

November 29, 2013

Soybeans the king of Limestone County

By Budd McLaughlin
budd@athensnews-courier.com

— The trend has been growing over the last few years and “King Cotton” is no more, at least in Limestone County.

The once-powerful plant, which is featured prominently on the Limestone County seal, is now the No. 4 crop with some 10,168 acres grown in the county this year.

The top product was soybeans with 67, 517 acres. Wheat was the second-most with 41,666 acres and corn covered 21,697 acres.

“I would’ve thought the ratio between corn and soybeans would be closer,” said Sean Seay, the Limestone County agent with the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. “We made good corn. There were about 140 bushels (per acre); the average is about 125 to 128 bushels.”

Seay said this was a good year for farmers and the last four years “we’ve had average to better than average crops.”

“The weather’s cooperated; we had good crop of wheat, soybeans, corn, cotton. Everybody’s smiling.”

Seay said the reason for soybeans’ growth and cotton’s decline is simple arithmetic.

“You have to put everything into perspective,” he said. “Fertilizer has gone up; fuel has gone up and the profit margin hasn’t changed much.

“The prices have to go back (to a few years ago) before you see it come back. Soybeans are less labor-intensive work and when you can make $200 to $300 for cotton or $500 to $600 for soybeans …”

He also said there are a couple of more crops that are making inroads, with producers hoping to capitalize on the bio-fuel industry.

“There were 2,269 acres of canola,” Seay said. “There have been some farms growing sunflowers. They’re raised for biodiesel.

“We’ve got some folks trying to diversify.”