"I think the biggest focus in North Carolina is a really strong effort to increase grain production profitably," said Piggott, "that being to provide more grain to try to close the deficit we have. The livestock industry has made a commitment to create a new market for things like grain sorghum. We're seeing an increase in basis for them wanting to buy more grain locally. The whole effort is a kind of self-help effort for the state and the Southeast to rely less on the grain coming from the Midwest and to produce more locally. I think the opportunity is for our row crop farmers to transition away from some of the more traditional crops such as cotton and peanuts and more into corn, wheat, grain sorghum and soybeans."
Peanut growers may be open to change. Peanuts set a record for yield in North Carolina in 2012 but contract prices offered have been frustrating for some.
It still remains to be seen what tobacco growers will do. A great year last year left them optimistic -- but there's a lot of competition for acres in the market place and it remains to be seen if the tobacco contract prices offered have been convincing.
Edmisten still believes cotton will continue to have a place in North Carolina fields.
"I don't know that we'll get back to a million acres anytime soon, or anywhere close to where we were at a few years ago," he says, "but I still think for drought-stressed soils cotton is a good choice. You know, we don't have the options like they do in the Mid-South or we'd be dropping cotton right now, more like they're doing in the Mid-South, in terms of growing corn and higher yielding soybeans."
He does leave open the possibility of losing cotton acres, wholesale, under particular circumstances. For example, he says, if growers were to lose another control option for resistant Palmer amaranth, it could be a game changer.
And there are many other unknowns. "What will happen with U.S. energy policy? …Will ethanol be less of a priority to the nation?"
Any changes like these could shuffle the crop mix in unknown ways, he says.