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Long Season Ends In Texas

By Tommy Horton

The law of averages finally caught up with cotton producers and ginners in 2008 on the Texas High Plains. Given the unpredictable weather the region encountered for much of the season, that really shouldn’t have surprised too many people.

After recording record crops several times in the last five years, the culprits this time around were cool temperatures and untimely rainfall.

That, coupled with an early freeze, helped lower the projected cotton production on the High Plains to slightly more than 3 million bales. Production in all of Texas is estimated at 5.1 million bales.

That is a major dropoff from 2007 when the state produced an 8.4-million-bale crop.

“We knew early on that this would be a down year,” says Tony Williams, executive vice president of the Texas Cotton Ginners Association. “We didn’t get the timely rainfall to start the season. After some improvement mid-season, the area received one widespread rain in September that delayed maturity and, eventually, combined with an early freeze, that pretty much finished things off on a down note for many Texas cotton producers.”

Still, even with the lower production numbers, Williams says many ginners will have “pretty good volumes, but not like what they had last year.”

Dryland Areas Hit Hard

Dryland areas in the High Plains were particularly hard hit by weather problems throughout the year, according to Williams.

As for how a lower ginning volume affects Texas ginners, Williams explains that several factors contribute to a gin’s profit margin. Included in that equation are seed prices, actual ginning volume and energy costs.

In the case of energy, the news was good for most Texas gins because of lower diesel prices.

“Lower diesel prices and seed prices were very helpful to Texas ginners,” he adds. “It means that those gins didn’t have to go to their customers to make up the difference.”

On the bright side of the ‘08 season in Texas, the weather was generally good during harvest, and gins were able to run consistently.

When the final bale is processed, the immediate task will be how to prepare for the ‘09 season. Will there be a big decrease in planted cotton acreage in the state? Will low cotton prices motivate producers to consider other crops, such as corn, wheat or grain sorghum?

Those are relevant questions, but Williams isn’t expecting a major decrease in cotton acreage, no matter how tempting a crop switch might be.

“A price hike would certainly help Texas,” he says. “Acreage-wise, we’ll be down a little bit, but I don’t anticipate a huge drop.”

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

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