USDA Says TexasHigh Plains In High Cotton

Friday, October 14, 2005                     By Shawn Wade

      For most High Plains cottonproducers the 2004 growing season felt like they had made it to the top of themountain and the only way to go would be down. That may not be the case as the2005 growing season has put all the pieces together once again and somehowadded a little extra in the process.

      According to USDA NationalAgricultural Statistics Service estimates released October 12, the Texas HighPlains region is on track to break last year's unbreakable record and produce astaggering 5.245 million bales of cotton in 2005.

      Nationally, U.S. cottonproduction is forecast to be down 2 percent from 2004 levels at 22.7 millionbales. The U.S. forecast for Upland cotton production is 22 million with anadditional 700,000 bales of American-Pima cotton bringing the total to the 22.7million bale mark.

      Looking closely at the Texasestimate shows the State's prospects rose during the month of September. TheOctober USDA production forecast for Texas totaled 7.645 million bales. Uplandproduction accounted for 7.6 million bales of that number with an additional45,000 bales of Pima production forecast for the State. The October figureswere roughly 400,000 bales higher than the previous month's 7.2 million baleestimate.

      The heart of the Texasforecast came from the improvement in the yield forecast for the High Plainsand the Rolling Plains growing regions. Designated as the 1-N, 1-S, 2-N and 2-Sdistricts by the Texas Agricultural Statistics Service (TASS), the increaseswere solely a function of increases in per acre yield estimates for the fourdistricts.

      In the High Plains (Districts1-N and 1-S) the yield forecasts were revised upward by 18 pounds to 875 poundsper acre in district 1-N and 51 pounds to 684 pounds per acre in district 1-S.

      The Rolling Plains districts(2-N and 2-S) showed similar increases with 2-N yields upped 78 pounds to 506pounds per acre and 2-S yields raised 19 pounds to 460 pounds per acre.

      As noted earlier, the HighPlains production forecast went to an incredible 5.245 million bales, 315,000bales higher than the 4.93 million bales projected for the region in September.

      Production is forecast at1.44 million bales in the Northern High Plains district (1-N) which includes 23counties north of Lubbock in the Texas Panhandle. District 1-N counties are:Armstrong, Briscoe, Carson, Castro, Dallam, Deaf Smith, Floyd, Gray, Hale,Hansford, Hartley, Hemphill, Hutchinson, Lipscomb, Moore, Ochiltree, Oldham,Parmer, Potter, Randall, Roberts, Sherman, and Swisher.

      Production is forecast atjust over 3.8 million bales in the Southern High Plains (1-S). The SouthernHigh Plains includes 16 counties located from Lubbock south to Midland.District 1-S counties are: Andrews, Bailey, Cochran, Crosby, Dawson, Gaines,Glasscock, Hockley, Howard, Lamb, Lubbock, Lynn, Martin, Midland, Terry, andYoakum.

      The production forecast forthe Northern Low Plains (District 2-N) is 390,000 bales based on the Octoberreport. District 2-N includes the following counties: Borden, Childress,Collingsworth, Cottle, Dickens, Donley, Foard, Garza, Hall, Hardeman, Kent,King, Motley, Wheeler, Wichita, and Wilbarger.

      The production forecast forthe Southern Low Plains (District 2-S) is 470,000 bales based on the Octoberreport. District 2-S includes the following counties: Baylor, Coleman, Fisher,Haskell, Jones, Knox, Mitchell, Nolan, Runnels, Scurry, Stonewall, and Taylor.

      Whether or not the HighPlains region makes it to the 5.245 million bale mark largely depends on theweather and receiving an open, dry fall.

      What producers would mostlike to avoid is a repeat of the 2004 harvest season's on-again, off-againharvest pattern. The 2004 harvest was punctuated by multiple rain and snowfallevents that delayed harvest for extended periods and kept producers in thefield longer than they would have liked.

      The 2004 weather pattern alsoslowed ginning activity as area ginners struggled to process module aftermodule of rough cotton that was harvested in less than ideal conditions.

      The fact that the region hasthe opportunity to set back-to-back production records is an impressive featthat was helped along by a combination of improved cotton seed varieties beingplanted in the region as well as a favorable weather pattern through out themajority of the growing season.

      Overall abandonment for the2005 growing season is estimated to be a paltry 6.5 percent of the 3.7 millionacres planted in 2005. According to TASS survey results, 3.46 million acresremain for harvest this year.

      To put this projected acreageloss into perspective the region's long-term acreage abandonment figuretypically averages close to 20 percent, double 2005's projected loss level.

      Producers and ginners alikeare ready to hit the field and work their way through the 2005 crop. With luck,harvest operations will go smoothly and the vast majority of the crop will bein modules before the end of the year. Ginning the crop will take longer simplydue to the shear volume of cotton that must be processed.

      It is easy to project thatthe 2005 ginning season will stretch into at least February of 2006 even ifthings run smoothly and ginning operations are not slowed by hard to processcotton, mechanical problems or both.

      The reality is that verylittle cotton has been harvested through mid-October and producers are notlikely to hit their stride until the first of November.

      As is always the case ginswill ramp up their activity to match the pace with which cotton is harvestedand will run at maximum speed until there is no more cotton to gin.

      The top of the mountain isnow in sight. You can be sure the High Plains cotton industry stands ready tomeet the challenge and reach another record-breaking summit in 2005.