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Touching base with regional agribusiness
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This week, we provide updates on agricultural commodities and agribusiness interests relevant in Northeast Georgia. With the current economic uncertainty, it is vital that producers, agribusiness and related industries stay current on regional, state and national trends.

The International Poultry Expo runs through Friday at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. Many businesses from Northeast Georgia have exhibits and are attending.

USDA’s Economic Research Service reported U.S. broiler production down 1.5 percent for the fourth quarter of 2008 and predicts lower meat production in 2009. The Georgia Ag Statistics Service reported similar findings for the state.

The current economic crisis will continue to impact beef demand at home and abroad as governments grapple with the credit crunch and recession, according to

Experts also note that consumers are trading down in their meat purchases, buying less expensive cuts of beef and more ground beef, pork and chicken. So middle-level meat prices will continue to struggle while manufacturing beef prices remain strong.

While good news for dairy farm profitability is hard to come by lately, there is some promising news about feed. Projections are that grain prices will fall due to higher than expected production and reduced ethanol demand.

Is it enough to offset falling milk prices? Not according to Dave Kurzawski of Downs-O’Neill, a brokerage firm specializing in dairy markets and products. Says Kurzawski: “Not yet but it’s a hopeful situation.”

Green industry
Nursery, landscape and lawn-care businesses are still struggling. Retail garden center sales are off considerably from years past. Landscape maintenance firms are trying to maintain their existing customer base. Unfortunately, these types of businesses are usually hit earlier and harder by an economic downturn.

Farm input prices have been climbing steadily over the last few years with fertilizer leading the way, increasing as much as 200 percent in some circles. However, worldwide fertilizer demand is down and wholesale fertilizer prices have dropped since Thanksgiving.

While this sounds like a good thing, the issue is that most fertilizer dealers still have higher-priced fertilizer in their warehouses. Over time, this price reduction will help, but probably not immediately.

Billy Skaggs is a Hall County extension agent. He can be reached at 770-531-6988. His column appears biweekly and at