In the past 25 years, I can’t recall a situation where the U.S. cotton farmer has been blindsided by such a contrast in weather patterns. By the time you pick up this magazine in early June, let’s hope that some stability has occurred across several regions. However, don’t count on it just yet.
Droughts and floods are nothing new, but there is something downright confounding about what we are dealing with now. The weather experts pretty much called it correctly when they predicted a La Niña event that would lead to drought conditions in Texas and parts of Oklahoma and Kansas.
All of us have known that Texas cotton production was vulnerable to unpredictable weather. The past six months prove that beyond a doubt. After having talked to several equipment dealers and farmers in Texas recently, I think some producers believe they can wait until June 15 at the latest before planting.
That isn’t ideal, but when cotton prices are as attractive as they are now, you have to be willing to stretch the season as much as you can.
On the other side of the coin, we have recordbreaking floods up and down the Mississippi River. Again, when a farmer has bottomland next to the river, this is a situation that becomes all too familiar. I can certainly remember the floods of 1993, but the current flood environment is rather confusing. We’ve seen the Army Corps of Engineers open spillways and take unusual steps to protect large urban populations. Unfortunately, that has caused some valuable farmland along the river to flood.
If there has been any good news so far along the river, it’s the stability of the levees. We’ve heard some reports of seepage, but, for the most part, it’s been encouraging to hear how these levees are holding. However, I can only imagine how farmers might be feeling as they watch their acreage flooded as the lower Delta continues to see 100-year-old records broken.
I’ve visited farms up and down the Mississippi River and walked the fields with the likes of John Lindamood in Tiptonville, Tenn.; Richard and Charlotte Kelley of Burlison, Tenn.; Kenneth Hood in Gunnison, Miss.; John McKee of Friars Point, Miss.; David Wildy in Manila, Ark., and many others.
Everyone is resigned to the situation right now, but there is an urgency to plant as much of this bottomland as possible after the water recedes. It’s painful and stressful. But it typifies the attitude of farmers near the river.
They do whatever is necessary to survive.
If you have comments, send them to: Editor, Cotton Farming Magazine, 1010 June Road, Suite 102, Memphis, Tenn., 38119. Or send e-mail to: