It was a sobering moment when I read the article on page 10 in which it was reported that the United States is expected to harvest its lowest number of cotton acres since the 19th century, according to an estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“USDA projected this year’s harvested acres at 7.13 million,” said Scott Stiles, Extension economist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “That would be the lowest since 1868.”
I suspect the main culprit for these startling numbers is the relentless drought that maintained a tight grip on many areas of the Cotton Belt.
We’ve all heard the phrase “for everything there is a season,” which comes from the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes. Unfortunately, not everything is good. Some things will challenge the human spirit’s ability to endure. There is no obvious answer and no quick fix, but we have to maintain a positive attitude and not give up.
On the affirmative end of the spectrum, I was encouraged by the article on page 8 that describes one North Carolina family’s efforts to bring cotton back after the boll weevil decimated the crop in the 1920s.
Beaufort County farmer, Gary Respess, said, “This county was the largest cotton-
growing county in the state, and it went to zero with the boll weevil.”
However, once the Boll Weevil Eradication Program made strides in the area, along with chemical and technological innovations, Respess began farming cotton in 1995. He and several others also joined up to build a cotton gin in 1996. Today, he and his family have grown the business into a thriving, multigenerational operation.
Another bit of good news is that the Inflation Reduction Act increased funding to several agricultural conservation programs. The four existing programs that will benefit include:
→ Environmental Quality Incentives Program, EQIP.
→ Conservation Stewardship Program, CSP.
→ Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, ACEP.
→ Regional Conservation Partnership Program, RCPP.
Check out the article on page 14 to see details of other proposals in the works.
Although it’s no secret that cotton farmers still face challenges going into harvest and trying to plan for the 2023 season, I have faith that in the end, they will endure.