Cotton crop could be cut in half from last year - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Cotton crop could be cut in half from last year

It's harvest time and South Plains cotton farmers are out in the fields to bring in what they've grown this year. Most who are stripping cotton now agree that it's clear the drought had a severe impact.

Area producers fear the region will produce less than half as much cotton as they did last year.

In an area so closely tied to agriculture, farmers say a bleak harvest will impact a lot of people. Crop insurance may help them break even; they say they won't have as much money to spend locally.

There's been virtually no rain or moisture all summer, forcing producers to either abandon dry land crops or spend a fortune on irrigation.

You put the same effort into it that you normally would, but the outcome is half and that's hard to take," Hancock said.

He's had to irrigate his fields so often that the pivot has dug a trench up to his knees.

"It's been hard on equipment it's been hard on people," said Hancock.

Due to the dry year, experts say the harvest won't last long.

"Normally we harvest for two and a half to three months. This year it will probably be in five weeks," Hancock estimated.

Less harvest time means less work for employees at the gins, storage facilities, and the drivers who export our cotton.

"They won't need the extra employees for receiving a big crop," said Plains Cotton Growers Executive Vice President Steve Verett.

According to PCG, the region brought in about $2.5 billion in cotton during 2010. If estimates hold up, that number will go down to about $750 million this year.

"The less bales harvested and processed its less money floating around in the economy," Verett said.

Hancock says it will affect how often his employees work and receive.

"The labor is not going to be here as long, so those guys are not going to have as many dollars to take to town to buy groceries, to buy simple things," said Hancock.

Crop insurance will help and producers hope they will break even.

After the harvest is complete, they'll look to next year, cautiously optimistic

"We hope that it is a one time out of one hundred year occurrence and we get back to something that's a little more normal," Verett said.

Hancock is ready to turn the page on the dry summer.

"I'm going to be real glad when in this book we get to close the last chapter."

Copyright 2011 KCBD. All rights reserved.

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