South Plains cotton farmers could decide not to plant this year

Published: Jan. 15, 2016 at 3:42 AM CST|Updated: May. 19, 2016 at 2:27 PM CDT
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Verett's son
Verett's son

LUBBOCK COUNTY, TX (KCBD) - While South Plains cotton farmers are coming off a production year that is reported to be the best since 2010, the next few months will be challenging.

Plains Cotton Growers tells us that last year alone, 40 percent of the nation's cotton was grown within 200 miles of Lubbock. But now, the low demand for cotton is making some farmers wonder if it's worth the risk to plant this year.

"We're sharpening the pencil, and we're figuring, and we're erasing," said Vice President of Plains Cotton Growers, Steve Verett, "and we're starting over like every farmer is."

However, Verett and his son are determined to make their farm in Crosby County work.

"From a price perspective, it hasn't been the best," Verett said. "Prices on cotton are less than break even to say the least."

Cotton farmers are not alone in this challenge, though.

"All of the commodities have fallen to levels that are below the cost of production," Verett said, "so what they're looking at now, you hate to look at it this way, but it's really, 'Which one do I have the least chance of losing money on?'

This is a risk Verett said not ever farmer will take.

"There may be very well some farmers that say, 'I can't make this work, and so I've got to do something else'," Verett said.

If a farmer does decide to plant, they will need crop insurance in case their hard work is destroyed.

"Right now, the December contract is trading about .62 cents," Verett said. "Last year's price on crop insurance for 2015 was .64 cents."

Farmers will not know that number until it's decided at the end of February.

"We hope at least that we don't get any lower than what we are," Verett said, "because that would be devastating if we fall out of the sixties for sure."

That low demand for cotton only adds to this stress, but Verett said consumers could help curve that.

"We're competing against man made fibers that are made basically from petroleum - the price of oil," he said. "We're concerned about the things that we eat, and we want people to think about that when it comes to cotton. Do you want to wear something that is a natural fiber, that is made from renewable sources? As opposed to wearing something made from petroleum?"

It is that pride in his profession that keeps farmers like Verett fighting.

"We're going to try to do everything we can to try to stay profitable," he said, "and try to stay in business growing cotton, because it's important not only to the farm families that are growing it, but to this region as well."

These farmers will have to make these decisions in the next couple of months, Verett said, as they will begin to plant around May.

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