Grain prices have some cotton producers switching from fiber to food

Published: May. 17, 2023 at 9:32 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Recent rainfall has made the question of grain or cotton more difficult for South Plains producers, as some producers are making the switch from fiber to food this season.

The concerns of rain and input cost have many producers looking the other way. A professor in agricultural and applied economics at Texas Tech, Darren Hudson, said some have decided to switch to grain crops.

“When producers were thinking about decisions, the grain prices looked a lot more lucrative in the sense of profitability,” Hudson said.

Grain prices are now hovering at the higher end between $6 and $7 a bushel, which includes sorghum, wheat and corn.

In addition to more profit, Hudson said grain crops typically have a lower input cost.

“You put those two things together and it really caused farmers to second guess how many acres they were going to plant,” Hudson said.

But on the South Plains, fewer cotton acres means fewer jobs.

“Because they are significant employment drivers for the region, that tends to filter out to the rest of the economy,” Hudson said. “When you have fewer cotton acres you need fewer truck drivers, fewer gin workers, things like that.”

While seeing less cotton in the fields is concerning, the Executive Director of the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, Norma Ritz Johnson, said more grain in these fields can help when it comes to demand.

“The U.S. continues to be the breadbasket to the world and with sorghum’s many versatile end uses, we do still have a world that is continuing to clamor for U.S. sorghum,” Johnson said.

Johnson said planting sorghum offers more benefits, including improving cotton yield in the future.

“It has a great role to play in rotations from a sustainability standpoint, also from a standpoint of rotated crops tend to really benefit the crop that follows,” Johnson said.

Sorghum also offers new opportunities for farmers.

“When you’re operating in an environment with a favorable price, when you’re operating in an environment with opportunities such as ethanol or other higher value uses, it’s really a great opportunity to get in on what is a great crop,” Johnson said.

Hudson and Johnson say recent rainfall will help both crops produce larger yields for producers.

The USDA’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates for 2023 to 2024 show wheat production is up slightly and projected at more than 1.6 billion bushels, corn is projected at a record 15.3 billion bushels and cotton is forecast at 15.5 million bales.