We have become accustomed to this familiar phrase in cotton production. Every year is different no matter what part of the Belt you call home. Regardless of how true that statement sounds, it is safe to say that it might be a long time before we see another year like 2011.
It had a little bit of everything – recordbreaking prices, floods in the Mid-South, historic drought in the Southwest and more heat and drought in the Southeast. Our friends in the West got off to a late start with some cool, wet conditions in the spring, but their problems weren’t quite as challenging as other parts of the Belt.
The year started with such great promise as I look back to last January. The price surge had already started, and many in the industry already were calling it the perfect storm. Finally, after years of low prices, it seemed that global demand would reward U.S. cotton producers. Everything was in place, or so it seemed.
As you’ll see in our two main stories this month, there is a lot of optimism out there despite what the weather inflicted on parts of the Cotton Belt. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find two more positive thinking industry leaders than American Cotton Shippers president Jordan Lea and Texas producer Rickey Bearden. They had front-row seats for what happened last year and know firsthand about volatile prices and drought conditions. Look for their stories on pages 13, 16, 18 and 19.
From a personal standpoint, I can recall walking the fields with several producers this year and seeing how they overcame serious adversity. I can still remember spending time with the Darnell family in north Alabama before planting began. They were excited about the price situation and optimistic about the crop season ahead. Incredibly, they dodged devastating tornadoes in the area and survived a scorching drought.
Then there was the remarkable story surrounding Arkansas producer Brian McDaniel’s experience. Most of his acreage was under water in May when the Mississippi River flooded numerous tributaries in the eastern part of the state. He didn’t finish replanting until mid-June and then saw his cotton make an amazing comeback in mid-summer.
You can find stories like that all across the Cotton Belt. Despite weather conditions that seemed impossible to overcome, many resilient producers managed to make a crop. Obviously, some weren’t that lucky, but that hasn’t dampened anyone’s enthusiasm for growing cotton.
The moral of this story? When you least expect it, that’s when cotton producers deliver – even during a year when the weather was less than cooperative.
Now it’s on to the 2012 season!
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