The debilitating drought that clung to central and south Texas the last several years caused many producers to abandon cotton production. Those who stayed loyal to the crop have had to find ways to remain profitable, despite the unkind growing conditions.
Dean Hansen of El Campo, Texas, is one of those loyalists.
Hansen and his wife, Shana, started the family-owned operation, Two-H Farms, eight years ago. The Hansens literally built Two-H Farms from the ground up. By slowly procuring farm equipment at local auctions and working full-time as a prison farm manager, Dean Hansen was gradually able to transition into farming.
The reduced cost of buying used equipment and adding rented acreage bit by bit has proven to be a successful strategy for this farming couple.
Cotton: A Rewarding Choice
The Hansens have tried growing numerous crops throughout the years, including wheat, soybeans, milo, corn and even sesame. Cotton has always held a special place in the operation, though. That was evident during the 2009 growing season.
While many producers reduced cotton acres, the Hansens actually doubled their cotton acreage to nearly 900 acres. Dean says cotton is one of the more profitable options for his operation right now.
“Cotton seems to pencil out better for us on the financial page,” he says. “We come out ahead with cotton as opposed to some other commodities. We’re pushing more toward cotton to get back to a guaranteed income rate.”
By using Red Wing accounting software, the Hansens found that cotton was the only crop to show a profit consistently. Many farmers who gave up on cotton have asked Hansen why they upped their cotton acreage this year. He says it’s a simple matter of dollars and cents.
“We grow cotton because we know we can grow it for a moderate cost and consistently produce a profit at the end of the year,” he says.
Clyde Crumley, an integrated pest management agent with the Texas AgriLife Extension Services, has worked with Hansen in the Upper Coastal Bend cotton program for several years. He notes that Dean is among a number of progressive producers in the region.
“We’ve had two pretty tough years of unprecedented drought, and that can get a producer down,” Crumley says. “But Dean has managed to stay very attentive and jump on problems right away. He doesn’t put things off. He’s on the ball.
“Dean’s diversified, and he spreads his risk factor. He has other cropping interests, but cotton remains a major focus for him.”
Choosing The Right Variety
An important component of the Hansens remaining profitable in the cotton business was identifying a cotton variety that fits their needs.
“I like having a choice in varieties,” Hansen says. “We look for something that will perform for us on a consistent basis – one that will help us moderate our costs in these economic times.”
Hansen has remained proactive throughout the years in finding what cotton varieties work best for him. He has participated in innovation trials and closely monitored the performance of different varieties from nearly all of the seed companies.
The key, Hansen says, is finding a variety that offers consistency, endurance and toughness, while limiting input costs. Without those qualities, it will be hard to survive growing cotton during the scorching hot, bone-dry summers of Texas – even under pivots.
Hansen’s exhaustive search for varieties that can withstand adverse conditions led him to PhytoGen cottonseed. He dedicated all of his cotton acres to the brand last year, but divided his acres among PhytoGen brand PHY 375 WRF and PHY 440 W.
“I’ve grown PhytoGen for about five years now in a large number of acres, and we’ve put it up against some other varieties that have been in large-acre plots,” Hansen says.
The consistency, toughness and endurance of PhytoGen was put to the test this year as record-setting temperatures dried out the Texas landscape.
“It got to the point where we really needed some rain right around first bloom,” Hansen says. “Phytogen muscled up and made good cotton even without the water it needed.”
Bader Rutter, which represents Dow AgroSciences, contributed information for this article.