Neugebauer Tours South Plains Cotton Crops - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

9/27/03

Neugebauer Tours South Plains Cotton Crops

Another cotton growing season is coming to a close as farmers harvest their crops across the South Plains. But farmers have much less work to do compared to last year as weather devastated hundreds of thousands of acres of West Texas cotton.

The damage is so significant Congressman Randy Neugebauer visited with local farmers on Saturday and saw the effects first hand.

Among low cotton prices and high energy costs, this year mother nature has been a farmer's worst enemy. As soon as the first seeds of the season were planted hail storms came and wiped them out. But it didn't stop there. Just a few weeks ago, 70,000 acres near Brownfield were leveled by another hailstorm. And farmers say it was some of our very best.

"Last year we made a little over 3 million bales, and this year we're probably gonna be looking at less than 2 million, and that's a devastating blow to not only our communities but the gins, the whole infrastructure on the high plains," says Rickey Bearden, farmer.

This is what 1/3 of our West Texas cotton crops look like this year and Randy Neugebauer is in town Saturday touring the devastation to report back to Washington.

"I want to take some of that back to the ag committee and make sure that input is heard," says Congressman Neugebauer.

Congressman and member of the House Ag Committee, Randy Neugebauer is taking a good look at the lifeblood of our region. He's shocked to see thousands of acres of cotton plants whither helplessly in a field after a recent hailstorm took the life from it during the most crucial time of the year.

"We were very concerned because this is the worst time of the year to have a hailstorm because the crops are mature. They were just a few weeks away from harvest," says Neugebauer.

Most farmers will have to rely on crop insurance to keep their heads above water this year. But Neugebauer says it may not be enough after such a harsh blow.

"It's appropriate to be out here this week and see the damage of having a disaster and finding out some of the crop insurance are not covering that," says Neugebauer.

He says even one bad year drives many farmers out of business. We've not only lost one-third of our crop but about a third of our cotton farmers have quit farming in recent years.

"It is more difficult for farmers to stay if you have this kind of weather disaster and economic disasters they've had," says Neugebauer.

The hundreds of thousands of dollars farmers will lose is just a small part of the blow our economy will feel in the months to come.

More than one million acres of cotton has been lost to weather here on the South Plains this year. Economists with the Texas A&M Extension service say every dollar spent on agriculture turns over in our economy at least three times.

This year's cotton losses are expected to cost our local economy billions of dollars in revenue.

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