ANNAPOLIS- In 2003, there was too much rain; in 2002, too little. But last year favorable weather blessed Maryland farmers with bumper crops, boosting their revenues nearly 19 percent. The biggest gain went to wheat farmers, who saw their revenue rise 60 percent.
In all, Maryland farmers brought in $1.74 billion in cash receipts, according to a report released Tuesday by the Maryland Agricultural Statistics Service. That figure reflects only gross sales by the state’s roughly 12,000 farms in 2004.
However, the cash receipts figure may not tell the whole story. It does not include production costs, especially rising energy prices, which hit farmers particularly hard.
Farmers’ gains also varied depending on what they produced. The crops enjoying the biggest gains over 2003 include wheat, up 60 percent; field corn, up 36 percent; and vegetables, up 32 percent.
Maryland’s leading commodity, in terms of receipts to farmers, was broiler chickens, with a record $628 million dollars collected in 2004, a 27 percent increase over 2003. After broilers, the biggest commodities were greenhouse and nursery ($360 million, up 11 percent), milk ($196 million, up 22 percent), corn ($120 million, up 36 percent), and soybeans ($112 million, up 30 percent).
Those increases represent the confluence of “ideal growing conditions,” said Norman Bennett, director for the Maryland field office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. “Everything just came together.”
Even crops, including soybeans and corn, that saw lower prices compared with previous years performed well thanks to record yields, according to the study.
“It rained,” said Lynne Hoot, executive director of the Maryland Grain Producers Association. “And that makes all the difference.” –