BY AMANDA HUBER
Producers couldn’t stop farming their crops while the Farm Bill was being debated for two years. Neither can they afford to hold off planting until USDA crafts the final rules and regulations. Seed must be planted, and a crop nurtured until harvest. For now, it is market prices, or lack thereof, and the unknowns about the Farm Bill that will cause many producers to proceed with caution.
Many Unanswered Questions
Guy Collins, University of Georgia Extension agronomist in cotton, says that many producers were still in the process of figuring out their acreages in the late winter.
“Some folks are talking slight increases on cotton acreages, and others staying the same,” he says, “and others haven’t really decided until they look more into this Farm Bill.”
Collins’ counterpart in Florida, David Wright, Extension agronomist for the University of Florida, says a new production area in Florida will help to increase cotton acreage in the Sunshine State.
“I think we will see a five to 10 percent increase in cotton due to lower corn prices, and most of it will be in the Live Oak area where there are several new farmers getting into it,” he says.
The National Cotton Council’s planting intentions survey of Southeast producers showed there would be a one to two percent decline in cotton acreage, but that may have been too close on the heels of last season, and other crop prices did not materialize as hoped.
Sticking With Rotations
More than anything, producers are ready to put last year to rest and hopefully see enough, but not too much rain in 2014.
Producer Rodney Joiner of Edison, Ga., plants cotton, 1,325 acres in 2013, and consults on an additional 12,000 acres of cotton. He has planted Stoneville cotton for 15 years and planted ST 6448LB2 on his farm last year because of its full-season maturity and the ability to spray Liberty herbicide.
Joiner says there may be a little bump in cotton production, but nothing too drastic.
“I think we might even be up 10 percent in our cotton production,” he says. “But we don’t like to jump into soybeans on our fields because it is detrimental to the rotation with peanuts.”
Ready For Anything
No matter what happens in 2014, Joiner says last year made him ready to face any challenges in the future.
“We had some historic rainfall this past year,” he says. “As a matter of fact, we still had cotton in my county in early January that hadn’t been picked and that’s because of late-season rains.
“The farmers who got through this crop better are the ones who planted their cotton early and developed a stand or root system. The other cotton was actually just sitting in water and never developed root systems. The plant couldn’t take up nutrients. That cotton was horrible. The Stoneville varieties did go through this bad weather, but there was a time when I had my doubts. I didn’t think we’d harvest anything back in June.
“When you get through something like this, it gives you some faith for the future,” he says. “That is what I’m excited about the most.”
Contact Amanda Huber at (352) 486-7006 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions For Ga. Producers
• What is in the Farm Bill?
• What about grain prices?
• Will varieties perform again?
• Will it flood again?
• Can cotton acreage increase?