Georgia farmers may turn to corn for ethanol - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Georgia farmers may turn to corn for ethanol

February 8, 2007

Lee County -- America's energy problem is opening a door of opportunity for many South Georgia farmers.  The ethanol fuel explosion is creating a skyrocketing need for corn, and with it, increasing the price for the crop.

Georgia agriculture experts say the amount of corn grown in the state will double this year.  South Georgia farmers are rotating off cotton and peanuts, to cash in on this new money crop.      

Lee County farmer Wendall Arrington is getting his fields ready to plant corn and he's cutting back on the number of acres of cotton he planted last year.  "Yeah, we are probably going to increase corn, probably from 180 acres up to close to 700 acres," he said.

Arrington isn't alone. A corn growers meeting in Leesburg drew record numbers, as South Georgia farmers get ready to plant the crop in high demand to produce alternative fuel.

A crop with promise. "The price. There could be 142 running ethanol plants in the United States within a year, and they use a lot of grain."

The need for an alternative fuel could be a huge economic boost for Georgia farmers. University of Georgia Grain Agronomist Dewey Lee said, "Certainly it means opportunity. It means opportunity for the grower to see improved prices, and him to capture those prices."  

Arrington said, "Demand has gone way up. Exports have gone up as well. With the ethanol plants, and throw the two together we got a good corn price for the first time in several years."

The expanding need for fuel will be seen in Georgia farms. "Last year it was 280,000 acres, and we could jump to 550,000 acres. We could double our acres in Georgia," said Pioneer Agriculture Sales Mgr.  Roebie Burriss.

As he gets his fields ready to plant corn, Arrington says he feels the demand for corn will give him a chance to make a fair profit for his crop. "That's really boosted morale of all the farmers, really."

Farming is Georgia's number one industry, so increased profits for South Georgians like Arrington would improve the economic strength for the entire region.  

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