Cotton Links

- My Turn -

Spring Is On The Way

By Woody Anderson
Colorado City, Texas

Cotton farmers have always been optimists when it comes to growing their crops and running their farming business. And, for the most part, they’ve always been able to put things in perspective.

When we have a bad crop, we’re always looking forward to the next one and for something positive. And when we have a good crop, we’re thankful and confident that the next one will be just as good.

This year on the Rolling Plains of Texas where I farm we’re trying to keep things in perspective. And, for a number of reasons, we’re looking forward to the next one. Planting time in the spring of 2008 was one of the most difficult that I think we have faced in 35 years of farming.

We started planting in mid-May with adequate moisture and temperatures warm enough to germinate seed. But about halfway through, 20 to 30 mph winds hit, and the temperature climbed into the 100s. What started off as a promising year quickly turned into a wait-and-see one.

Then in late June we had a series of spring storms that brought, not only much needed rain, but hail and high winds. On June 17, we received a little over four and a half inches of rain in 65 minutes and had a considerable amount of hail that covered many areas of our cotton ground.

Things looked pretty grim the next morning, with water running out of our fields and almost all of our conservation terraces broken. But as the water receded, a stand of young cotton plants began to emerge and offered us hope.

On June 19, more storm clouds rolled in, and we experienced two to three hours of straight-line winds that reached maximum speeds of around 85 mph. Anyone who has been in West Texas after a hard rain and seen what wind and sand can do to a young cotton plant knows what happened next. June 20 is the final planting date for cotton in our area, and the land would be too wet to try and replant. We called in our crop insurance adjuster.

As we began to analyze our situation, we soon came to the conclusion that our options for a crop of any kind in 2008 looked pretty grim. We began to think that summer fallowing ground that had produced an all-time record crop in 2007 might be good for the land. We rationalized that with $4 diesel and $500 fertilizer we might actually be better off. Being the eternal optimists, some of us planted grain sorghum to try and put matter back in the soil, and others planted wheat later in the fall.

We have always understood what it takes to survive, especially working in a business that relies so much on the weather. I daresay that almost every cotton farmer can remember what each crop year was like in their farming career; and 2008 will go down in the record books as being one of the most challenging for me.

As the year progressed, the worst economic conditions of my farming lifetime fell upon all of us. The lessons I learned from my dad and granddad have helped us weather economic storms in the past and will hopefully help us deal with this one.

We are approaching the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and we remain thankful for what has come our way. Even though this crop was dismal, we kept busy with projects on the farm that we had put off for a year or so.

We’re also thankful that the presidential elections are over. We have a new Farm Bill, and input prices seem to be relaxing somewhat. Most of our record crops were grown in odd number years: ’73, ’79, ’87, ’05, ’07. With just a little winter rain to recharge our subsoil moisture, we are looking forward to our 36th cotton crop. I’m sure that 2009 will be one of our all-time best crops.

I’m optimistic. Winter in West Texas is always short. Before you know it, spring will be here!

– Woody Anderson, Colorado City, Texas

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