A Shred of Hope
Well, 2014 has not ended as positively as we had hoped back in May. Some last-minute spring rains hinted we would have a chance for a good cotton crop. Weekly rains until the 4th of July put some wind in our sails, giving most farmers plenty of confidence of a good crop..but that didn't happen in the lower panhandle of Texas this year.
Drought conditions persisted in July and August, and most fields just didn't get timely rains to save the crop. Most farmers in our area have shredded their cotton, including us, in order to collect crop insurance. It has become an all-too familiar pattern in our area the past four years. Already, we have destroyed about 80% of our acres. Experiencing our first freeze this winter on November 11th, we will find out next week just how much cotton we will harvest this year.
We will strip a 50-acre field this week. Past that, we do not know if we will harvest much more on our 6,700-acre farm. At best, we are looking at harvesting about 10-15 percent of our acres. For four consecutive years, many farmers have had no cotton crop at all in our area.
For our area of West Texas, it has been the roughest stretch for agriculture since the 1950s. Some say since the 1930s Dust Bowl years. But crop insurance has kept most of us alive in these hard times. We are blessed with such a program. The last of the subsidies are gone in American agriculture. When farmers miss three or four consecutive crops, crop insurance is the only thing saving us from a radical change...which means "retirement" or changing vocations and lifestyles. For many, that would mean leaving the farm for the oil field or larger cities for employment.
While the weather and crops have not been that positive for us this decade, we've had lots of moisture since the first of September. Close to 10 inches of rain has fallen in two and a half months. Those rains did little to nothing for the 2014 crop, but will provide a nice foundation of soil moisture heading into 2015.
As a dryland cotton farmer, you always have to have some hope for the next year...even if there is only a shred of it left.