Cotton Links


Producers Seek Relief From Hurricane Damage


By Tommy Horton

Hurricanes and tropical storms are a way of life for cotton producers near the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf
of Mexico. Sooner or later you have to deal with these weather events.

For producers in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas, it was a double hit from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. And don’t forget about Hurricane Dolly that hit southern Texas or Hurricane Fay, which touched parts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

By the time most farmers read this story in early October, the list of hurricanes may increase. However, for those who endured high winds and floods from Gustav and Ike, the goal now is to seek federal or state disaster relief.

Record Damage For State

Louisiana Extension cotton specialist Sandy Stewart says the cotton damage in his state is some of the worst he has seen since 2001.

“It was a bit surreal to walk through some of these fields,” he says. “There is just so much hardlock and deteriorating of the bolls. You can see some bolls up and down the plant. But when you touch them, they fall apart.”

Stewart says Louisiana producers are pursuing an exception to current crop insurance regulations in an effort to gain disaster relief more quickly.

Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain led a recent delegation to Washington to visit with that state’s congressional representatives as well as the Secretary of Agriculture. Accompanying Strain were LSU AgCenter Chancellor Bill Richardson and state representative Andy Anders.

Strain toured several areas where Gustav damaged cotton acreage. He called the weather event the worst in Louisiana’s history as far as its impact on agriculture.

“We estimate we have greater crop loss and agricultural damage this time than any other time in Louisiana history,” Strain says. “There isn’t one parish that hasn’t been affected.”

Some in the Louisiana ag sector have suggested various strategies for seeking disaster assistance. For example, veteran cotton consultant Roger Carter offered this update in one of his recent newsletters to farmers:

• “We need more rapid yield assessments by the Risk Management Agency. Currently, it will take until the end of the year to complete the paperwork required. Most adjusters are independent and can only do what RMA dictates, but they are highly qualified and experienced.

• “Let farmers decide whether they want to harvest the remaining crop and not let it count against their insurance payments in lieu of any future disaster payments.”

Significant Hit In Louisiana

Louisiana clearly was the state where cotton damage was most significant. Stewart says 60 to 90 percent of the state’s cotton had open bolls before Gustav came ashore. He says yield losses will range between 30 and 65 percent.

In his early assessment, Stewart says the timing of the hurricanes couldn’t have been worse. By late September, most of the Louisiana cotton crop would have been harvested.

“The younger the cotton, the better it survived,” says Stewart. “I guess that’s the good news in all of this. If there is a take-away message for all of our farmers, it would be to evaluate your damage and get the ball rolling on your insurance claim.

“That’s the first order of business. I’d also say ‘don’t give up.’ We simply have to deal with this and do the best we can to harvest what’s left and then gain some disaster assistance.”

Contact Tommy Horton at (901) 767-4020 or thorton@onegrower.com.

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