West Texas Cotton Farmers Cope After Round of Bad Weather - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

6/4/03

West Texas Cotton Farmers Cope After Round of Bad Weather

What used to be a flourishing field of cotton plants, but now as you can see it looks more like a cotton graveyard. Tuesday night golf-ball to base-ball sized hail pounded cotton fields west of  Slaton and you can still see the indentions those hail stones made as they literally Levelland Dale Kithcens cotton field in a matter of minutes.

Dale Kitchens makes his living planting cotton. "We've been planting since May 8th." But after weeks of hard work, it's back to the drawing board. "We took a 20 minute hail storm here at posey and just totally destroyed all of our cotton that we had up and so it's a no-brainer on about 2,000 acres for us. It's just totally wiped out," says Kitchens.

With more than 30 years in the cotton business hard times come and go. "This is 100% loss. It's a total destroyed cotton crop and is was some of our very best," says Kitchens.

He says words can't describe what it's like to see his livlihood vanish before his very eyes. 

It's almost a sinking feeling you just know all your hard work is gone and course as a West Texas farmer it's a fact of life. You just keep on going and not give up. And that phlosophy is what keeps Dale going. Cotton isn't the only thing Dale has to worry about. But, compared to his cotton his cows are looking better.

"It's harder to hail cattle out but if it hits them on top of their hed, there's one looking at us he's in good shape still," says Kitchens.

 More than 300 head of cattle braved tuesday night's storm including dozens of newborn calves.

Dale drives through his pasture fearing the worst. "Hail gets bad enough and hits them just right behind the head there it could kill them, so we'll have to drive through today and looky there, he's in good shape today, he's still running," says Kitchens.

A small sign of hope, after an intense storm. "I won't be surprised to find 2 or 3 dead calves out there. Bad weather can tear them up when they're newborns. "I'm concerned too, that cow had twins," says Kitchens. 

From the pasture to the field, a mother cow stands with only one calf-the other still missing, and a farmer surveys the damage. "It's an absolute expense. It's a hit/ it's a definite economic loss when you get hailed out definitely not what you want to see as a cotton farmer but it's a fact of life here in West Texas," says Kitchens.

The only option for Dale is to replant cotton or plant something else altogether. The planting deadline for cotton here in Lubbock County is June 5th. But if farmers can get cotton in the ground by June 15th, they are still eligible for crop insurance.

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