The U.S. Department of Agriculture's April 1 report on vegetable acreage shows that spring season fresh market vegetable acreage is up 1% while processed vegetable acreage is down a whopping 9%.

Unfortunately, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service doesn't answer the question of "why" when it comes to the precipitous drop in processed vegetable acreage.

I can only assume that high prices for field corn and perhaps cotton may have impaired the ability of processed vegetable manufacturers to compete for acres with those program crops.

Here are some specifics from the report:

The prospective area for harvest of 11 selected fresh market vegetables during the spring quarter is forecast at 193,680 acres, up 1 percent from last year. Acreage increases for cabbage, carrots, sweet corn, and tomatoes more than offset acreage declines for snap beans, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, head lettuce, and bell peppers. Broccoli area remains unchanged.

Melon acreage for spring harvest is forecast at 68,000 acres, down 3 percent from last year. Cantaloupe and watermelon acreages are down 1 percent and 5 percent, respectively, from 2010. Honeydew acreage is up 8 percent from last year. Asparagus area for spring harvest is forecast at 28,000 acres, unchanged from last year. Strawberry area for harvest is forecast at 49,800 acres,

Processors expect to contract 1.01 million acres of the five major processed vegetable crops in the United States for 2011, down 9 percent from last year.

Contracted acreage declines are forecast for all five major processed vegetable crops. Freezing firms expect to contract 301,720 acres, down 16 percent from last year. Canneries contracted for 705,350 acres, down 7 percent from 2010. Acreage for snap beans, sweet corn, cucumbers for pickles, and green peas is down 17 percent, 10 percent, 1 percent, and 18 percent, respectively, from last year. Tomatoes for processing is down slightly from a year ago.

Total onion planted area for all seasons in 2011 is forecast at 158,860 acres, up 2 percent from last year. Spring onions are expected to be harvested from 30,300 acres in 2011, up 17 percent from 2010. Georgia and Texas combined production is forecast at 7.13 million cwt, 5 percent below last year. Summer non-storage onion planted area, at 17,900 acres, is down 6 percent from a year ago. Total summer onion area, at 125,960 acres, is down
1 percent from the previous year.