Cotton Harvest Decision Aid Now Available

Friday, August 31, 2012 By Shawn Wade & Mary Jane Buerkle

      A hot topic across the High Plains over the past few weeks has been the discussion of if and when it makes economic sense to harvest a very low-yielding cotton crop. The bottom line to the decision is whether or not the effort will net a positive economic return to the producer.

      While any number of things will ultimately impact a producer's decision, conservative forecasting of cotton lint prices for middle- to lower-quality type cotton in the range of 50-60 cents per pound can still yield positive economic returns, thanks to an added expectation of strong cotton seed prices around $250 per ton this harvest season.

      That combination sets the stage for the value of harvested cotton to match up pretty well with a projected crop insurance harvest price that could be around 70 cents per lint pound.

      "There are a lot of variables that have to be considered in the decision to harvest a low-yielding crop in 2012," PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett said. "As long as it makes economic sense at the farm level, a harvested crop also will be of tremendous benefit to our allied industry segments."

      The first thing producers need to do, Verett said, is to determine how much harvestable cotton is out there. That figure, he said, will come from a producer's own evaluation and experience as well as an appraisal conducted through the federal crop insurance program.

      Verett noted that estimating yield is usually the hardest, but the most critical, part of the process. There always will be a margin of error, but the federal crop insurance loss adjustment process, when applied correctly, should provide a reasonable figure to start from. A PDF excerpt from the Federal Crop Insurance Loss Adjustment Handbook containing the Boll Count Appraisal rules is available on the PCG website,

      "It is important for everyone involved, from the adjuster to the producer, to remember that estimating the most accurate yield possible is critical," Verett said.

      In order to help sort all of these variables out, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Risk Management Program Specialist Jay Yates of Lubbock has worked with Plains Cotton Growers to develop a spreadsheet to assist producers in estimating the potential net value of a 50-150 pound cotton crop.

      The spreadsheet can be downloaded directly from the Lubbock Extension Center website at:

      "The spreadsheet is set up to allow a producer to plug in expected loan values for the type of cotton they expect to harvest, estimate the market equity that might be realized and also figure an estimated value for the cotton seed that will be produced as well," Yates said. "That gross value can then be applied to the expected expenses for harvest and ginning that would be incurred to determine the net value across an operation or per acre."

      Yates said that the results might surprise some people. He noted that yields of 75 pounds have the potential to generate a modest positive cash flow after harvest costs are applied, even when expected lint prices (expressed as a combination of loan value plus market equity) are at 65 cents per pound.

      "The bottom line is that even an extremely low yield can potentially generate a modest positive cash flow and not adversely impact what the producer will receive from crop insurance and other industry risk-sharing programs," Yates said.

      Regardless of the ultimate decision producers make, Verett said that current scrutiny on farm policy makes it even more imperative for everyone to maintain the integrity of the appraisal process within the federal crop insurance program.

      "These programs are in place to help our growers manage their risk and prepare for difficult times," Verett said. "We must ensure that we do nothing to put our crop insurance programs into jeopardy."

      Although the majority of claims are handled properly, Verett said, stories of inaccurate appraisals typically surface in a year with diverse crop conditions.

      "We all have a responsibility to keep these programs functioning properly and without fraud and abuse," Verett said.


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School Districts Receive Grant from

America's Farmers Grow Rural Education

      Three schools in PCG's service area - Dalhart ISD, Levelland ISD, and Southland ISD – are winners of America's Farmers Grow Rural Education grants, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund.

      America's Farmers Grow Rural Education gives farmers the opportunity to nominate a public school district in their community to compete for a merit-based grant of either $10,000 or $25,000 to enhance education in the areas of math and/or science. More than 1,000 nominated school districts submitted applications. The Monsanto Fund will invest $2.3 million in 176 rural schools through this program.

      After being nominated by local farmers, school districts completed an online application and finalists were chosen by math and science teachers from ineligible school districts. The America's Farmers Grow Rural Education Advisory Council, a group of 26 prominent farmers from across the country, then reviewed the finalists' applications and selected the winners.

     "America's Farmers Grow Rural Education grants will make a positive difference in the lives of many science, agriculture and math students across the country," said Russell Boening of Poth, Texas, America's Farmers Grow Rural Education Advisory Council member. "Given reduced funding to school districts, the investments by the Monsanto Fund will have a long-lasting impact for rural education, and as a farmer, it's very gratifying."

      There were 176 school districts in 35 states that received grants of up to $25,000. All winners are posted at

      America's Farmers Grow Rural Education is sponsored by the Monsanto Fund to help farmers positively impact their communities and support local rural school districts. This program is part of the Monsanto Fund's overall effort to support rural education and communities. Another program that is part of this effort is America's Farmers Grow Communities, which gives farmers the opportunity to direct a $2,500 donation to their favorite community nonprofit organization in their county. Farmers can participate in this program through Nov. 30, 2012 by visiting


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Area Field Days Scheduled

      Mark your calendars for the following area field days:

      September 4 – Texas Tech/Texas AgriLife Research Field Day, 8 a.m., Quaker Farm, 200 N. Quaker

      September 12-13 – Deltapine Retailer Trainings, Lorenzo

      September 14 – Deltapine Field Day, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Levelland/Brownfield (exact location TBD)

      September 18 – Deltapine Field Day, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Steve Chapman Farm, Lorenzo

      September 19 – Deltapine Field Day, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Deltapine Facility in Aiken/Floyd County

      September 20 – Deltapine Field Day, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Nichols Farm, Gaines County

      September 24 – Deltapine Field Day, 4 p.m., Doug Jost Farm in St. Lawrence

      September 25 – All-Tex Field Day, 9:30 a.m., All-Tex, 2200 West Avenue, Levelland (lunch served at noon)

      September 25 – Deltapine Field Day, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., AGCARES in Lamesa

      September 26 – Bayer CropScience Field Day (for attendees located south of Lubbock), 9:30 a.m., Idalou Breeding Station, 3.2 miles east of Idalou on U.S. Highway 62/82, next to Apple Country Orchards

      September 27 – Bayer CropScience Field Day (for attendees located north of Lubbock), 9:30 a.m., Idalou Breeding Station, 3.2 miles east of Idalou on U.S. Highway 62/82, next to Apple Country Orchards

      For more information on the Deltapine field days, call Eric Best at (806) 790-4646. For more information on the All-Tex Field Day, call Cody Poage at (806) 894-4901. For more information on the Bayer CropScience field days, call (806) 765-8844.

      If you have a field day you would like to add to this schedule, please call Mary Jane Buerkle at (806) 792-4904 or email



NRCS to Host Local Work Group Meetings

      The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts will host Local Work Group meetings in August and September. The purpose of the public meetings is to receive input from farmers, ranchers, local agencies, organizations, local agricultural leaders, businesses, and other individuals that have an interest in natural resource concerns.

      Area meetings coming up over the next several days are as follows:

      September 4 – 9:30 a.m., USDA Service Center, 109 NE 14th Street, Lamesa

      September 5 – 9 a.m., Plains Community Building, 1006 Avenue G, Plains

      September 6 – 9 a.m., USDA Service Center, 200 West Taylor, Morton

      September 6 – 9 a.m., Wells Fargo Bank Meeting Room, 216 West Main, Post

      September 6 – 5:30 p.m., USDA Service Center, 410 Lone Star, Silverton

      September 10 – 1 p.m., USDA Service Center, 601 W. South First Street, Roby

      September 11 – 8 a.m., Chase Bank, 800 Eighth Street, Levelland

      September 11 – 9 a.m., USDA Service Center, U.S. Highway 70 East, Floydada

      September 11 – 9:30 a.m., Greenbelt Electric Cooperative Meeting Room, U.S. Highway 83, Childress

      September 11 – 10 a.m., USDA Service Center, 909 West Ninth Street, Spearman

      September 11 – 1:30 p.m., First Bank and Trust Meeting Room, North of Courthouse, Memphis

      September 11 – 4 p.m., RFD Building, Clarendon College, 1322 West Second, Clarendon