The September crop report recently published from USDA-NASS is estimating the production for Texas to be 8.837 million bales. If this is achieved, it will be the largest crop on record for the state, surpassing the 2005 record crop of 8.484 million bales.
What’s amazing is that the record crop in Texas prior to 2004 was just over 6 million bales back in 1949. In 2004, we produced 7.778 million bales, and everyone thought this was the crop of a lifetime. What did we do? We broke it the next year.
There are a lot of contributing factors to these record-setting crops, but let me just sum it up by saying we have been blessed and are thankful for the bounty that has been bestowed upon us in Texas.
As an individual who enjoys history, it is interesting to look back at where we once were so we can gauge how far we have come. According to NASS data, Texas planted 18.443 million acres of cotton in 1925, its most ever, and harvested 17.336 million acres that year with an average yield of 115 pounds per acre. The result was 4.163 million bales produced. In 1926, fewer acres were planted to cotton, but the number of acres harvested was the highest ever at 17.749 million, and with an average yield of 152 pounds per acre it produced 5.628 million bales. In 1949, the record crop that held until 2004, Texas planted 11.325 million acres and harvested 11.100 million acres with an average yield of 261 pounds. The result was the record production of 6.040 million bales.
There were 1,988 actively operating gins in Texas in 1949 that processed the crop that year. The most number of active gins in Texas was in 1902 at 4,599, and that same year there were 30,948 gins in the United States. According to NASS, Texas planted 5.618 million acres in 2010 and is estimated to harvest 5.4175 million acres with an average yield of 783 pounds per acre, resulting in the 8.837 million bale record estimate. By our count, we have 234 active gins in the state today. Taking a look at these numbers truly shows how we have progressed and become more efficient as an industry.
Having worked on behalf of cotton ginners in Texas for more than 22 years, I have come to admire and appreciate their dedication to the job they do. Ginning cotton is not an easy task, and it comes with a myriad of challenges unique to separating the fiber from the seed. This is not unlike other segments of the raw cotton industry, as they all have their own challenges.
One challenge the Texas ginning industry has faced since 2004 is the processing of these record- setting crops. We have seen gins operate for six months or longer during these years, which is about twice what they expect to run in a normal year.
The big issue gins face in a long ginning season is the wear and tear on personnel rather than machinery and equipment. Nothing counts like experience, and ginners are learning in a long season you cannot work employees like you do in a normal year.
We have begun to see gins shut down a few days during the Christmas holiday so that their employees can be with their families during this time, which was something unheard of in the past. Providing this time off leads to happier employees, who will be more likely to stay with you until the end of the ginning season.
Also, tired employees are more likely to have an accident that may lead to injuries and time off work. A long ginning season is also tough on machinery and equipment, and breakdowns are inevitable.
In all, ginners in Texas are prepared for the record-setting crop that is staring at us this year. We will draw upon our recent experience from ginning previous large crops as we put another one in the record book.
– Tony Williams, Austin, Texas
Texas Cotton Ginners Association