Severe storms sweeps through heart of cotton belt damaging crops - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

10/22/10

Severe storms sweeps through heart of cotton belt damaging crops

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By Christie Post - email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – The weather that tore through the South Plains made national headlines with Al Roker on NBC's Today Show pointing out the very large hail that pelted areas near Meadow and Brownfield.

Friday, people across the region are cleaning up after severe storms pelted the area with hail and rain; but just how much damage was done to area cotton crops? Farmers were out surveying their fields, and cotton officials tell us it is too early to tell the extent of the damage.

Friday night, KCBD NewsChannel 11 received reports from Terry County residents that they were hit hard by tennis ball sized hail.

Farmers in Terry County say the say the large amounts of rain put their crops under water, making it a complete loss. Others are looking at bare cotton stalks and the cotton on the ground because of the tennis ball sized hail. We spoke to one farmer who lost fifty percent of his crop and says a year like this could put his entire life's work in jeopardy. "All your expense is already in it. And the price of cotton this year is a once in the lifetime," said Meadow Cotton Farmer, Don Blake.

With cotton prices reaching the highest they've ever been since trading started 140 years ago, farmers are in shock with the loss of some or all their crops. "I've been farming 50 years and I never had this opportunity or this crop at the same time. So it's very devastating," said Blake.

This is Blake's 50th year of farming in Meadow. He has never seen this kind of weather near harvest time. "I've never had this kind of hail in October this late when you have all your expense in it. We're trying to gin right now, it's wet, and we're trying to move stuff to higher ground," said Meadow Farmers Co-op manager, Dan Jackson.

Some crops, however, can be salvaged. "We decided to strip it and we were going to do it yesterday and today. Of course the weather didn't permit us to do it," said Blake, "From what we stripped previously this was making a bale and a half plus per acre. And we at least lost a bale per acre maybe more."

Blake said he lost about half his crop but others are in the dark for now. "Just in our area I'm thinking a quarter to a half. "

The entire South Plains has about 3.5 million acres of cotton. Terry County has 250,000 acres. For the farmers, it's their life's work. "I won't say you get used to it, but it's something you have to learn to live with," said Blake, "Time will tell how bad." "It will be to till the middle of next week before we try," said Blake.

Now all farmers can do is hope for warmer weather and that the wind doesn't blow the cotton of the stalks. Plains Cotton Growers said with the current shortage of cotton, and after assessing the damages, they said they might see a second spike in the market.

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