There is one advantage in being an editor covering the U.S. cotton industry. This crop is never boring, and every season brings along some absolutely remarkable stories and developments on and off the turnrow. That may sound like a cliché description, but it certainly isn’t intended to be that way.
Just when you think you’ve seen it all in cotton, along comes another bit of news that will stay in your memory forever. Such was the case in 2010. I thought 2009 was memorable with the record breaking rains and floods that hit many parts of the Belt and especially in the Mid-South.
Could 2010 top 2009 in that department? Not possible, right? Wrong. In its own way, this past season ranked right up there with any previous crop year. As we like to say, you had to be there to appreciate it.
I keep hearing the word “stability” uttered a lot by agronomists, economists, entomologists, ag engineers, ginners and, yes, even farmers. After the kind of topsy-turvy year we’ve experienced in 2010, I’m not sure I know what that word means anymore. A year ago, the industry was justifiably optimistic because several regions were increasing cotton planted acreage. Corn prices, in particular, were retreating to lower levels. The ethanol craze seemed to be subsiding, or so we thought.
That trend was enough to give everyone in cotton some much needed optimism and hope.
The 2010 crop season got off to a good start nearly everywhere, and, in fact, you might say it had a roaring start in places like the Mid-South. The cotton in that region was ahead of schedule because of varieties that matured weeks ahead of time. The heat units accumulated in a hurry.
Then whoever heard of harvesting cotton in Mississippi in late August? It happened, and veteran observers were shaking their heads in disbelief. Was it the varieties’ performance or perfect weather in the summer? You hear arguments on both sides of that question.
And then how about a cotton price that started climbing and climbing by late summer? Who could have imagined a New York futures price that could rocket into the stratosphere to levels above $1.30 or $1.40? Again, it was the perfect storm, and it’s still hard to fathom that market forces converged to make this price a reality.
The obvious thought now is will we ever see another year quite like this one? That’s hard to say. But never ever believe that cotton’s best days are behind it. And never question the industry’s resilience in adapting to different environments.
After 2010, anything seems possible.
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