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Md. ag product sales rise

July 07, 2004|by DAVID DISHNEAU

Farm sales of Maryland agricultural products rose 5 percent last year as higher commodity prices offset problems caused by excessive rainfall, state agriculture officials said Tuesday.

Farm receipts totaled $1.47 billion, the Maryland Agricultural Statistics Service said.

Broiler chickens accounted for $494.7 million, or about a third of all sales. Greenhouse and nursery products made up the second-biggest category at $325.2 million, followed by milk and dairy products at $162.5 million.

Although excessive rains prevented farmers from planting some acreage, stable corn prices and sharply higher soybean prices generated significantly higher receipts for both crops, the agency said.

Corn sales rose to $87.3 million from $73.9 million in 2002. Soybean sales climbed to $86.3 million from $62 million, according to the report.

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Maryland Farm Bureau President Earl Hance, a greenhouse operator and grain producer in Port Republic, Md., said he wasn't surprised.

"Commodity prices are up; they've been trending up since last fall. Milk prices have been trending up the same way. However, so have expenses trended up, but it's still better than it has been," Hance said.

State Agriculture Secretary Lewis R. Riley said he and Gov. Robert Ehrlich were pleased with the results.

"A strong, financially stable agriculture industry is central to the quality of life in rural areas, the preservation of farm land, and the availability of fresh, healthy food locally and around the world," Riley said.

Last year's excessive precipitation reduced the quality and quantity of vegetables, wheat and small grains. Cash receipts sank 55 percent for wheat, 26 percent for vegetables and 14 percent for barley, the agency reported.

Hance said the weather has been good to growers so far this season.

"If the weather will hold, hopefully our farmers will have a good year and they certainly deserve it," he said.

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