Friday, June 5, 2009                                  By Shawn Wade

      Judging the 2009 High Plains cotton crop to be significantly better today than it was at the same time in 2008 may be a bit of a stretch at first glance, especially when looking at dryland cotton acres.

      Look a little deeper though, and the differences begin to tilt the table in favor of the current season despite the struggles that both irrigated and dryland crops have experienced thus far.

      Planting season is winding to a close and June 5 marks the Federal Crop Insurance program final planting date for most central High Plains cotton counties. So far the weather has largely cooperated in terms of allowing growers to get fields planted. Unfortunately it hasn't provided all the planting moisture many would like to see. Southern High Plains counties with a June 10 final insurance planting date still have a few days to get their initial planting activity completed.

      If dry conditions in these areas persist, some cotton could end up being abandoned and the acreage put to another use. If this occurs, it is important to note that crop insurance rules dictate that the drought affected acreage will not be eligible for adjustment, due to non-emergence of seed affected by drought conditions, until 15 days after the applicable final planting date for the county in which the crop is planted.

      Abandonment could still be the fate for some dryland acreage. Most dryland producers need 1.5-2 inches to get a cotton crop started. On an optimistic note, some dryland growers are at least getting a little rain and still have a chance to get something going in 2009,

      For dryland crops the first big difference from 2008 is the fact that so far 2009 has reminded many producers that rainfall events do frequent the area during planting season.

      That reminder has sometimes been served with a frustrating mixture of hope and trepidation to growers who can often see, and sometimes smell, the moisture they need falling just over the horizon.

      The second big difference for dryland growers is the fact that there is actually some moisture underneath a fair amount of the region's dryland acres that could help sustain a young dryland crop. As always the key will be getting help from above to provide the moisture needed to germinate and establish a crop in areas that are still dry.

      While both 2009 and 2008 have started out dry from a planting perspective the 2008 dryland crop started in a bigger hole with both a dry seedbed and virtually no underground moisture. The end result in 2008 was ultimately the abandonment of some one million dryland cotton acres.

      All things considered it seems the region's dryland acreage has to be considered a little better off, simply because a fair number of acres still have a chance to contribute to the region's 2009 production total.

      Irrigated cotton acres appear to be progressing pretty well, although many irrigated growers have been disappointed that their crops haven't "grown off" the way they would prefer.

      A big contributor to the irrigated crop's sluggish performance has been the relatively mild weather conditions that prevailed this far. Despite daytime temperatures have been pretty well in line with seasonal norms, nighttime temperatures continue to dip into the low to middle 50s at night.

      According to Dr. Randy Boman, Texas AgriLife Extension Cotton Agronomist, the sometimes cool morning temperatures of May and early June have the irrigated crop lagging a little bit even though overall heat unit accumulations are tracking close to normal.

      The 2009 growing season is starting in typical High Plains fashion with more questions than answers at this early stage. With hopes for establishing more dryland acres this year, favorable weather could set the stage for the area to put together another respectable cotton crop this year.


Friday, June 5, 2009                                 

      Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that farmer and rancher candidate nominations will begin on June 15, 2009, for local Farm Service Agency county committees. The nomination period continues through Aug. 3, 2009, with elections taking place this fall.

      To be eligible to serve on a Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committee, a person must participate or cooperate in a program administered by FSA, be eligible to vote in a county committee election and reside in the local administrative area in which the person is a candidate.

      Producers may nominate themselves or others, and organizations representing minorities and women may also nominate candidates. To become a candidate, an eligible individual must sign the nomination form, FSA-669A. The form and other valuable information about FSA county committee elections are available online at:

      Nomination forms for the 2009 election must be postmarked or received in the local USDA Service Center by close of business on Aug. 3, 2009.

      FSA county committee members make decisions on disaster and conservation programs, emergency programs, commodity price support loan programs and other important agricultural issues. Members serve three-year terms. Nationwide, there are about 7,800 farmers and ranchers serving on FSA county committees. Committees consist of three to 11 members who are elected by eligible producers.

      FSA will mail ballots to eligible voters beginning Nov. 6. The voted ballots are due back to the local county office either via mail or in person by Dec. 7. Newly elected committee members and alternates take office Jan. 1, 2010.