Farmers south of Lubbock have begun harvesting their cotton already, but this growing season has been tough in terms of bad weather and not enough rain. Farmers who suffered losses because of that either replanted cotton or some other crop, but it may not be enough to help keep our local economy going strong.
"It looks pretty sad right now. I started out with probably the cleanest and prettiest crops I've had in my lifetime and then we lost the majority of it," says Crosby County farmer, Eugene Bales. Bales is counting his losses after another growing season that at first looked very promising. This year mother nature wreaked havoc on cotton crops early in the growing season.
In June thousands of cotton acres were lost to hail, heavy rains and high winds. Many farmers replanted cotton but southern portions of the South Plains suffered another devastating blow last week. "We lost a tremendous amount of acreage in June and we lost a pretty sizeable strip 60-70,000 acres last weekend to hail," says Crop Insurance Adjuster, Bill Shannon.
He says he's having one of the busiest years in his career assessing crop damage. "I was busier in June and July than I've ever been in crop insurance," says Shannon.
And the effects of mother nature's wrath are shocking. "We lost a million acres," says Jackie Smith, Ag Economist with Texas A & M Extension Service.
Smith says South Plains farmers lost one-third of the crops they planted this season. "It's important to this economy probably a billion dollar effect to this economy."
And one billion lost in ag money means billions lost to our local economy along with hundreds of jobs. "Our jobs are affected by ag. They'll be some jobs that will be lost. I mean, there will be jobs that won't be here this year because some of them are temporary type jobs some will be ginning for example. They'll be gins that won't open in a few areas," says Smith.
Officials at Plains Cotton Growers Inc. say each dollar spent on local agriculture turns over in our economy at least three times because every part of these cotton bolls are used in some way. With less cotton there will be less jobs required to harvest, process and transport our cotton this year.