A Recipe for Disaster: Wet Weather & Unharvested Cotton - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

11/2/02

A Recipe for Disaster: Wet Weather & Unharvested Cotton

Rain is usually a word farmers like to hear, but now many farmers are calling recent rains bad news. Thousands of acres of cotton remain in West Texas fields putting many farmers and related businesses in a financial frenzy.

Mixing wet weather with unharvested cotton is a recipe for disaster. And that is exactly what some West Texas farmers are faced with after receiving some not so welcomed rains this week. Now, the ground is wet and farmers can not get in their fields to harvest. That means cotton does not get to the gin and the USDA can not grade it or tell farmers how much their cotton is worth. Normally these crates at the USDA classing office are filled with cotton this time of year, but after this week's rains most of them are empty. And hundreds of employees here are without jobs

"It's not just us cutting off people. The gins and all the related industry, you're not using anything when the farmers stop.We're almost at zero capacity right now," Wendell Wilbanks, area director for the USDA Cotton Division.

The USDA has only graded 500,000 bales of cotton so far, with more than two million to go. But the bad weather is putting the West Texas ag industry at a stand still. Wilbanks says it may be January before all cotton is graded.

"Then you're gonna have a lot of people that are not going to have the money on Christmas and then it starts snowballing on what it does on the economic. The amount of money may not change economically for the town but what time it gets paid. As long as we keep seeing rain in the forecast. We've got to have a dry wind and dry the ground and cotton out," says Wilbanks.

Wilbanks adds that after all the rains it is going to take some time for cotton fields to dry out. This is very important because if cotton stays wet for a long period of time, the color will be affected and the grade will be lower costing farmers money. But Wilbanks could not say at this point just how much farmers are losing from cotton damaged by the rain.

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