Cotton growers visit Lubbock area for Producer Information Exchange

Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 9:13 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 22, 2022 at 10:46 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Farmers from across the nation spent Monday here on the High Plains, learning how producers maintain a cotton crop in the middle of the drought.

It’s part of the Producer Information Exchange, hosted by the National Cotton Council. After a two-year break, growers are back to visiting other growers around the country, seeing how operations in the Cotton Belt are different from their own.

Growers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia visited the Lubbock area for the Southwest tour. They visited with leaders from Plains Cotton Growers, visited BASF’s Seed Innovations Center, Lloyd Arthur Farms in Ralls, and Sam Stanley Farms in Levelland.

Here in the Lubbock area, growers mostly learned about the water crisis. As Arthur explained while hosting the producers on his farm, water comes from two main sources, the Ogallala aquifer and rain, or what he calls the nectar from the heavens.

Susan Everett, member service representative for the National Cotton Council, says Arthur is very involved in water conservation, so that’s why she wanted the growers to visit his farm.

“It’s just so important for these guys to understand how we do make a crop on the little amount of water that we do have,” Everett said.

Bo Leatherman, who grows cotton in Tunica, Mississippi, is on the Southwest tour. He says water isn’t usually an issue for him, being so close to the Mississippi River, but drought has been his biggest problem this year.

“One thing I’m learning from here that I want to bring back is really the conservation of that water, of that resource, and how we can better utilize it and better put it across, instead of just turning on pivots and letting it run,” Leatherman said. “We do a lot of flood irrigation, so, instead of just flooding fields completely, doing a better job of getting water where it needs to be and in an efficient manner so that we’re not just wasting a resource that not everybody has the luxury like we have.”

Leatherman mentioned technology farmers use on the High Plains that he didn’t know about, like a remote control system that allows growers to run a pivot from their phone, keeping farmers from wasting water on turnrows.

“We’re doing the best we can. We’re trying to be very smart. There’s a lot of new technology as far as monitoring your water, how much water you put down, when you put the water down and we’re just so much more efficient than what we were,” Everett said.

Everett says cotton is a huge boom to the economy whenever there’s a good yield. She says no matter the crop, when agriculture suffers, other things do, too, like car dealerships and restaurants. She says it’s always good when the entire Cotton Belt makes a crop. While water may not be an issue everywhere, Leatherman says there are many other struggles he faces as a young farmer, including finding labor and rising input costs.

“Just to get into farming nowadays is so expensive and the the input costs are just, they’re getting kind of outrageous. And so, it makes it really hard for somebody who hasn’t been established or anything like that, or doesn’t have a direct access to being able to at least trade in equipment and move on up. It makes it hard for a young person to move, move into that, into this space,” Leatherman said.

On day one of the tour, he networked with other growers who are only two hours away from him. Next, the producers head to the lower Rio Grande Valley on their tour of the state. At the end of the month, Southwest and West region producers will visit farms in North Carolina.