Cotton Growers, Ginners Easing Into

High Plains Harvest

Friday, November 1, 2013                By Mary Jane Buerkle

      Harvest activity on the High Plains has picked up over the past two weeks, as fair weather and cotton that finally has reached peak maturity have made it possible for growers to get into the field and strip or pick their 2013 crop.

      A hard killing freeze still has eluded many growers, but going the harvest aid route has kept producers on schedule. The average first freeze date for the High Plains is around October 31.

      Rain and cloudy weather coupled with humidity has delayed growers in some areas, but an open forecast over the next week should get this late harvest back on track area-wide.

      Many growers have reported yields that are higher than expected, with some fields yielding more than 1,500 pounds to the acre and even better.

      Dennis Flowers, manager at Sudan Farmers Co-op, said they are running 24 hours a day at this point, but that night shifts had just started this week. As of Friday morning, they had ginned about 9,300 bales. Flowers said he's expecting to gin about 47,000 bales, although it's "still hard to get a handle on this crop," he said.

      Leighton Stovall, manager at Moore County Gin, said harvest in the northern counties is progressing "slowly but surely" and just beginning to pick up. He said they will have ginned 3,500 bales by the end of the day today and are running a day crew only at this time. He said he expects to gin anywhere from 35,000 to 45,000 bales this year.

      Tommy Woolam, manager at Woolam Gin in O'Donnell, said that their main issue right now is leaf trash and bark. Quality reports from the Lamesa classing office reflect that, with an average leaf grade of 2.78 for the week and 2.58 for the season. Total bark is at 22.7 percent for the week and 19.3 percent for the season. Woolam said they have ginned about 1,500 out of an expected 10,000 to 12,000 bales, and they will not run a night crew this year.

      Steve Newton, manager at Owens Co-op Gin in Crosby County, said they are running 24 hours and have ginned about 15,000 bales of their expected 75,000. Yields are as good or better than originally thought, he said, and quality also has been good.

      "If we can get it off the stalk and get it on the ground we'll be OK," Newton said.

      Bryan Thomas, manager at Spur Farmers Co-op, said although yields overall are a little below average, they still will gin double the amount of cotton they ginned last year. He said they are not running a night crew and have ginned 1,074 bales as of Friday morning. Thomas said they expect to gin about 6,000 bales this year.

      Kyle Taubert, manager of Oasis Gin near Seminole, said their ginning season started several weeks later than normal. October rains have contributed to the overall delay. Usually, he said, they're running 24 hours by the first week of October but this year, it was mid-October before they added the night shift, and they only have ginned about 17,000 bales so far when normally at this time, they've surpassed 35,000. Taubert said they hope to gin 80,000 bales, which is more than 2011 and less than 2012. Grades, he said, have generally been good with only a little low micronaire.

      Glen Phipps, manager at Welch Gin, said they've had an "extremely slow" start and have ginned only 776 bales as of Friday out of their expected 15,000 bales. He said they will begin a night crew this weekend. He said although temperatures have reflected a freeze, it "didn't even bite" much of the cotton in his area. As for yield, Phipps said they have been pleasantly surprised.

      "Ours is not fantastic, but we're tickled with what we have and just appreciate everything we've got," Phipps said.

      As of Thursday, the USDA-AMS Cotton Classing Office in Lubbock had classed 228,769 bales, more than half of that within the last week. Just more than 90 percent of cotton classed this past week was color grade 21 or 11. Average staple was 36.01, strength 30.94 g/tex, uniformity 80.08 percent and micronaire 3.71 for the week. Leaf grade for the week was 2.77.

      The cotton market, however, has taken a downturn over the past couple of weeks. As of press time, December futures were just over 77 cents, and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Risk Management Specialist Jay Yates said that the slip could continue.

      "Concern over the slow pace of export shipments and expectations that USDA will increase the estimate of U.S. average yield in its upcoming crop production report have combined to take out key technical support of the December contract at 78 cents opening the way to prices in the lower 70's or even upper 60's," Yates said.

      In other cotton-related news, the Farm Bill Conference Committee met for the first time on Wednesday. The hearing consisted of opening statements from many of the 41 conferees from the House and the Senate, and the general tone of the comments was optimism centered around the desire for partnership and to finish the bill in a timely fashion. However, some of the most key negotiations are yet to come, including those in crop insurance, the commodity title, and nutrition. PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett has been in Washington, DC during the past week to meet with key partners in the process, and we will continue to publish information as it is made available.


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