Cotton Links


High On Cotton

By Roger Carter
Clayton, La.

Wikipedia defines optimism as “an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome.”

If you “Google” “farming optimism” you will find 650,000 hits. With “cotton optimism,” 396,000 hits. Using the same correlation as many companies use when analyzing their product data, 396,000 divided by 650,000 means that roughly 61 percent of “Googles” feel optimistic about cotton.

That’s not bad considering that there were only 64,400 hits on soybeans – less than 10 percent. Data are what we make of them, and I stretched the limit on these.

All farmers are eternal optimists even though a few would never want to admit it. For the past year, the most optimistic of any farmer had to be the cotton farmer. Low prices, labor issues, high costs and, for some, very poor or virtually no yields in 2008.

Coffee shop talk didn’t help. They say one bad shrimp can spoil the whole catch. Same at the coffee shop, farm store, chemical dealer, etc. One person can sway the whole group.

This year began with cotton acreages again tumbling, but a semi-respectable acreage has emerged. Although some of the crop is slightly later than normal, cotton can respond to the warmer temperatures and gentler rains of June and July and set record yields quickly.

I cannot speak for all areas, but this area of Louisiana has one of the best overall starts in cotton we have seen in many years. To consultants and cotton farmers, seeing that first bloom makes us feel better than having a sausage and biscuit at McDonald’s but not quite as good as a reduction in technology fees.

For those of you who have read the AMS Ag Report that my associates and I conspire upon, you know we love quotes. Nothing can make us feel better than a good quote. I again went to “Google” and found a Web site (brainy-quotes.com) that contained numerous quotes regarding cotton. Here are a few choice ones:

“I developed my style by pickin’ a lot of cotton, plowin’ that ole mule every day. I just got the rhythm, and any rhythm I need, I know where it is; I know where to find it.” – John Hunter, Texas blues legend

“I loved to get all dusty and ride horses and plant potatoes and cotton.” – Dorothy Malone, television and movie actress

“I was influenced a lot by those around me. There was a lot of singing that went on in the cotton fields.” – Willie Nelson, country western singer

Have you ever seen such quotes regarding soybean, corn, rice or wheat? That’s because our roots are in cotton. From cotton we came, and from cotton we will grow. No crop has brought farmers in the Cotton Belt back from financial insecurity as cotton.

Explaining to our “non-cotton-raising” brethren what “bein’ in ‘da shaught rows” means is worth several bales of cotton to me. And not having cotton in a crop mix in the Cotton Belt makes as much sense as killing a hog on a hot day. Cotton may not be considered the King now, but what other crop can take its place in such a noble way. Its romanticism is rooted in the Deep South, and it will not just be “Gone With the Wind.” Acreages will return when economics dictate and until then those that continue to raise cotton will be considered the elite of all crop producers.

Am I “high” on cotton? You betcha. It has been down before, and I am sure will again, but it is the one crop we have always depended upon to retrieve us from financial ruts. And, as John Hunter said, “it gives us the rhythm.”

And I like his beat.

– Roger Carter, Clayton, La.

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