After a long journey that began six months ago, we now come to the main goal of every cotton farmer in this country. Somehow, the crop must be harvested and delivered to the gin on time – even if the weather doesn’t always cooperate. That is what confronts producers today from California to the Carolinas, and sometimes it takes every bit of luck to make it happen.
As I write this column on Sept. 20, a lot of important decisions are being made on when to defoliate and begin harvest. In some regions, those decisions will be easier compared to places such as the Texas High Plains. Our friends there have been dealing with a bizarre weather pattern since back in the spring.
As you’ll see in our cover story on pages 8, 9, 10 and 11, the season began with much optimism in this part of Texas. After three years of drought, it appeared that a more normal rainfall trend was beginning. In the story, Steve Verett, executive vice president of Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., and a long-time cotton farmer, offers a firsthand view of what it was like to go through the season. Everyone was overjoyed with timely rains in May and June. But, then the weather turned hot and dry in August. Verett says there is the potential for a very good crop in the region, but everyone is nervous about rain recently entering the Lubbock area because of hurricanes in the Pacific. Just call it one more element in a Texas year where anything can happen.
And why are we so concerned about what happens in Texas? Mainly, because roughly half of the cotton in the country is produced in this state. Cotton traders, USDA and overseas mills always monitor what happens there. As Texas goes, so goes the rest of the Cotton Belt in many ways.
It was just a few years ago that the state produced nearly eight million bales in a spectacular season where everything clicked perfectly. Then came the three-year drought, and production dropped to a level somewhere close to 3.5 million bales – for the entire state.
Now, as Verett points out, there is a realistic chance for a return to a typical season. That means something on the order of 3.8 million bales in the High Plains. Coupled with some encouraging reports from other parts of the Lone Star state, this could put the state’s overall production somewhere close to 6.6 million bales. Again, that’s just an estimate. So, keep your fingers crossed for all cotton producers but especially the ones in Texas. They are long overdue for some good fortune.