Heavy rains in October were cause for concern for West Texas farmers. Producers thought their soaked cotton may have been ruined. But, now that the cotton is drying out, farmers are back in the fields harvesting and hoping the damage was not extensive.
For many West Texas farmers this years harvest has been nothing short of risky business. After recent rains, farmers are now working fast to get dried out cotton out of fields before the skies open up again, and the best news of all is that the damage may not be as bad as we thought.
"We took losses and it's something we would've liked to have done without, but we have, and some is according to where it is," says Wendell Wilbanks of the Lubbock USDA Cotton Office.
After being at a stand still for several days, the USDA classing office is back in business. It is harvest time again, and now the classing office is filled wall to wall with cotton ready to be graded on quality. "We've classed close to 600,000 bales now, and we're getting in approximately 35,000 to 40,000 a day ever since they started back harvesting," says Wilbanks.
Wilbanks says cotton is coming in at alarming rates because of dry weather. "Several gins have reporter that they have tagged in more bales or more modules than they have ever tagged in on individual days. And that just gives the indication on how fast that this crop can be harvested with cotton being right and good weather," says Wilbanks.
So it is good news as far as quantity is concerned, but when it comes to quality Wilbanks says farmers are still in better shape than expected. Most cotton is better than average grade, which means crops were not a total loss. "You're gonna see individual bales that are not good but on a whole it's gonna be very good," says Wilbanks.
Overall, the cotton crop looks good for this year even after untimely rains. Though color and length were affected, Wilbanks says most cotton is middle-grade or better so farmers will not lose money because of the rains, but the harvest is far from over. We have still got two-million bales to go, and it may be January before we know just how big this cotton growing season is for the South Plains.