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Cotton News

June 30, 2023

Welcome to the June 30, 2023 issue of Cotton News, a service provided by Plains Cotton Growers Inc. for the cotton industry in the Texas High Plains and beyond.

Let’s Talk Mental Health in Agriculture

By Kara Bishop

June is Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month. So I could write an article on mental health with research-backed findings on suicide rates among farmers. I could write about why farmers’ mental health is now a concern that’s gained traction in the health care industry. I could include tips and tricks to proactively maintain a healthy mental state. 

But the truth is, I wouldn’t want to read that, and you probably don’t either.

If you’re a farmer or work in the ag industry at all, you don’t need to be told why the mental struggle is real. It’s not a surprise to many of us in this industry why this is a topic the health care industry has been increasing its efforts toward. 

Mental toughness only goes so far when you’re staring at a plummeting market price. It only goes so far when the land you care so much about hasn’t seen rain in 18 months. It only goes so far when the tools you need to do your job well increase in price by 150% to 300% — and no one’s there to take care of your overhead because you own the business. Mental strength doesn’t fix an ever-increasing inflation rate or interest rates at the bank — you already have a risky business on paper, let’s add inflation to it with bottom-of-the-barrel prices. 

And I think the main problem with all of these problems is the fact that they are totally outside of the farmer’s control. The farmer doesn’t dictate the weather or set the commodity price. The farmer doesn’t control the economy, nor can he or she solely lower the risk of the operation. 

Plus, every year is different. Even good years come with challenges that add to the uncertainty of the current crop or next year’s crop. 

Last year was a bleak one for the Texas High Plains cotton industry. This year, while we’ve had some rain, is still a mixed bag. It’s hard to watch a $1.40 price in May 2022 dwindle to 79 cents in June 2023. It’s hard to watch a much-needed rain come with tragic tornadoes and baseball-size hail. And I haven’t even mentioned labor.

It’s just hard. But it’s not new. 

I was talking to a farmer last year, back when prices were in the $1.40 range. He said it was hard to find motivation to start planting and ‘get going,’ because it was so dry. He didn’t think he would be able to make a crop, which was depressing in light of the best prices seen in decades. As he’s going through all of the challenges his operation was facing, I literally asked, “So, what keeps you from jumping off of a bridge?” 

And his response was something that the health care gurus don’t really talk about. 

“Yeah, it’s hard, OK?” he said. “But to make it through every year, a farmer has to be grounded in their faith — hard.” 

Faith. That isn’t a popular topic when addressing mental health on a clinical level. And I’m not knocking clinical help or medication. We all deserve to be the best versions of ourselves, and counseling and medication are excellent tools when faced with insurmountable pressure. But I do believe faith should at least be part of the equation. 

We all love the anonymous quote: “There is no greater demonstration of faith than a man planting seeds in a field.” Because all the factors outside of a farmer’s control rest in the hands of a higher power.

Farming can also be isolating. Chances are you’re not around many people during the day. It can be easy to retreat socially during busy seasons. When we do get together, it’s not popular to tell the friend group that we’re struggling mentally. When farmers hang around other farmers, it’s usually to talk about farming — not the mental stress they’re facing alongside the farming. 

Yet, it’s also common to hear people talk about how friendly the agricultural industry is — how neighborly we are. And it’s true. Farmers will help other farmers do just about anything. Check each other’s fields as they’re driving by, work on a pivot together, etc. So why not share each other’s mental burdens? 

There are resources for everyone when it comes to taking care of mental health. Telemedicine has made huge waves in rural health care availability. If you need a counselor, you can download an app on your phone, pick one and do a session right from the tractor if you wanted to. 

But wouldn’t it mean more if you could talk to someone who knows what you’re going through? Who is living it with you? Sometimes a good vent session is the healthiest thing you can do.

And while we’re being neighborly, let’s look out for each other. Check in with one another if you feel a friend has retreated mentally and/or physically. Because like it or not, the rate of suicide among farmers is 3.5 times higher than the general population. It’s an issue and we need to be observant. 

And when it comes to observation, it’s typically not the ‘complainers’ you need to worry about. 

It’s the ones who have stopped talking. 

Let’s all do our part to keep the conversation going. Don’t dismiss mental health. It’s vital to our success both as farmers and human beings. 

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USDA Releases Planted Acreage Report

The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released its most recent planted acreage estimate June 30, 2023.

According to NASS, total cotton planted area for 2023 is estimated at 11.1 million acres, down 19% from last year. Upland area is estimated at 11 million acres, down 19% from 2022. American Pima area is estimated at 109,000 acres, down 40% from 2022. 

Upland cotton planted acres for Texas are estimated to be 6.1 million acres, down from 7.8 million in 2022, but on par with the state’s historical average. 

“Based on Texas’ planted acres estimate — although there are still several variables in play — the High Plains region acreage could see between 3.2 and 3.5 million acres, which is on track with our historical average planted acres,” said Kody Bessent, PCG CEO. 

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Cotton Industry Seeks Volunteer Leaders

The success of the High Plains cotton industry, like any group effort, is tied to the willingness of qualified individuals to volunteer to serve in various leadership positions. 

PCG encourages all qualified producers interested in representing the Texas High Plains as a representative to the Cotton Board, National Cotton Council or Cotton Incorporated to call the PCG office for more information: 806-792-4904.

Qualified producer nominees should be actively engaged in the production of cotton at the time of nomination. 

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June 23, 2023

Welcome to the June 23, 2023 issue of Cotton News, a service provided by Plains Cotton Growers Inc. for the cotton industry in the Texas High Plains and beyond.

Dryland field in Petersburg, Texas (Hale County).

Texas High Plains Crop Conditions — Need Another Rain

Mid-May, PCG’s reporting focused primarily on the necessity of drought relief. By the end of May, fields in certain areas of PCG’s 42 counties were flooding and planting was delayed. On June 9,

2023, we were concerned about heat units and the need for warmer temperatures. We saw temperatures come up to the high 90s for most of June 12 through the 16th. Now, with established stands and some squaring observations, we could use another rain. 

And we may just get one, if historical data is anything to go by. According to historical rain data for Lubbock, anytime May has recorded five or more inches of rain, there has typically been good precipitation through June and the rest of the growing season. Hopefully that will be the case this crop year. 

The cotton that did emerge and was not damaged by weather conditions has looked pretty good. “We have seen more uniform stands this year than we have in the past,” added Kody Bessent, PCG CEO. 

According to PCG Director of Field Services Mark Brown, the crop north of Plainview is suffering. Large storms, hail and tornadoes have hit the region hard. “We lost 1,400 more acres of cotton right after the Perryton tornado,” said Quentin Shieldknight, producer in Hansford County. 

Brown added that east of Lubbock, the situation is better. In his spot checks, Brown said he has seen cotton all over the board in terms of growth and development — from emergence to one true leaf all the way up to match-head squares. “If a producer has match-head squares in their field today, it’s more than likely they’ll have blooms by the July 15, which is pretty typical in a normal growing season,” Brown added.   

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Pest Management Report

While rain is always welcome, it does increase the insect pressure. Experts report thrip and grasshopper activity in fields, but what is most concerning are wireworms. Wireworms can be hard to find when scouting and can be hard to treat after the cotton has emerged. 

“We have product options with grasshoppers, fleahoppers and thrips, but once you plant, there’s nothing you can do to prevent wireworms,” said Suhas Vyavhare, Ph.D., extension entomologist.   

Shawn Holladay, producer in Dawson and Marting Counties said he’s seen more wireworms this year than he’s ever seen before. 

“We’ve learned a valuable lesson this year,” he added. “We won’t plant irrigated cotton that’s not seed treated again.” 

Vyavhare also said to be on the lookout for plant bugs now that plants are beginning to square.

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Hale County Goes to Amsterdam

Steve Olson, producer in Hale County, served as a panelist discussing regenerative agriculture at a cotton conference overseas.

“One thing that really stands out to me in these global experiences is how fortunate we are here in America,” Olson said. “There was a panelist from India that talked about the ability to finally purchase oxen to help him on the farm. There was also a woman discussing using her farm profits to put her children through school. It’s humbling to think about.” 

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Intern Perspective

Riley Gryder and Josiah Keck were named Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association summer interns in May.

By the end of the summer, Gryder will have worked with Adobe Walls Gin, Edcot Gin, Johnson Gin, LoneStar Gin and Top of Texas Gin.

Keck is working with Petersburg Co-op Gin and will finish his internship at Smith Gin Co-op in South Texas. 

Intern Story: Gryder

Riley Gryder

Originally published in TCGA’s “The Ginnery” newsletter.

With my first month as a TCGA intern coming to an end, I am proud to say that I have learned far more than I expected to. Assigned to Phillip Kidd at Edcot Gin in Edmonson, Texas, I have traveled around the Panhandle working alongside many great people such as Landon Kidd, Daniel Jenkins, Steven Birkenfeld, and Malcom Jones. Learning the ins and outs of ginning, I have toured and worked at three Windstar gins – Edcot Gin, Johnson Gin, and Top of Texas Gin.

My internship began with an extensive, hands-on tour of Edcot gin led by Landon Kidd. Throughout the week, I had the opportunity to learn about trading seed, lint, and even got to tour BC Supply and MTS in Lubbock. The second week, I stayed in Turkey, Texas with a great host and manager – Daniel Jenkins. While traveling back and forth to the Johnson Gin in Silverton, I got to see how the caprock affects cotton growers in the area. With entirely different planting dates, it looks like this area might have a higher yield of cotton compared to the Caprock, which has had a tough season.

While at the Johnson Gin, I had the opportunity to work with Kevin Williams and learn what happens inside of gins to keep them running. Pulling wires and putting in new control panels was our main focus here at Johnson Gin, as well as Top of Texas Gin. Working under Malcom Jones, I was tasked to shadow a group of skilled electricians as we installed new module feeder and shaft monitoring control systems. While the job isn’t done, I plan to revisit Top of Texas Gin in the coming weeks, along with Adobe Walls Gin and Lonestar Gin in Pampa, Texas. Overall, I have had many great experiences with many great people. I have learned more in two weeks than most get to learn in a lifetime. I would like to thank Aaron Nelsen for giving me this opportunity and Phillip Kidd for organizing and allowing me to have these great opportunities. I cannot wait to learn more about cotton growing and ginning all over Texas.

Gryder is a mechanical engineering student at Texas Tech University.

Intern Story: Keck

Josiah Keck

Originally published in TCGA’s “The Ginnery” newsletter.

I have been working for Myles Ramsey, manager of Petersburg CO-OP Gin, for the first half of my internship. I have been learning the process of cotton ginning from Mr. Ramsey. The first week I helped take apart augers in the distributor. Next, I took apart the hangers which are attached to the augers. I cleaned and replaced chains around the sprockets and checked for any damage around the drive shaft, sprocket, and ball bearings. Later that same week, I helped one of my co-workers clean out and replace the gin stand saws. Mr. Ramsey also took me on several tours. We toured PYCO, RAM Manufacturing, and where the cotton samples go to be graded. PYCO was one of the most fascinating to me. PYCO is where the cotton seed, after being ginned, goes to be made into cottonseed oil. There I learned about the process of how a cotton seed is turned into oil. What was very fascinating to me was the lint around the cotton seed. PYCO has three cleaning processes of taking the lint off the seed, they later turn the lint into bales. One of the coolest facts I learned from the lint is that Samsung buys some of this lint to make their devices. During my time at Petersburg Cotton Gin, I have been asking lots of questions about the sales side of cotton. I talked to one of the PCCA workers and learned about the pool and grades of cotton. PCCA buys portions of cotton to add to their pool. The pool helps get more leverage in the cotton market.

The first part of my internship was a blast! I have learned a lot from Mr. Ramsey, and I appreciated the time he has put into teaching me the ins and outs of the cotton gin. In the second part of my internship, I will be working for Smith Gin Co-op in Odem Texas. I am very excited to also get to see how the gins are run during the season.

Keck is an agricultural systems management student at Texas A&M University.

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June 16, 2023

Welcome to the June 16, 2023 issue of Cotton News, a service provided by Plains Cotton Growers Inc. for the cotton industry in the Texas High Plains and beyond.

USDA Accepts More Than 1 Million Acres in Offers Through the Conservation Reserve Program General Signup

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting more than 1 million acres in this year’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) General signup. This is one of several signups that USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is holding for the program. The results for CRP General signup reflect the continued importance of CRP as a tool to help producers invest in the long-term health, sustainability, and profitability of their land and resources. The signup’s results include more than 190,000 acres in Texas.

“This year’s General CRP signup demonstrates the value and continued strength of this voluntary conservation program, which plays an important role in helping mitigate climate change and conserve our natural resources,” said Kelly Adkins, FSA State Executive Director in Texas. “Today’s announcement is one of many enrollment and partnership opportunities within CRP, including opportunities through our working lands Grassland CRP, Continuous CRP, and Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). USDA will continue working to ensure producers and landowners have the information they need to take advantage of the options that work best for their operations.”

Offers for new land in this General CRP signup totaled about 295,000 acres nationwide. Producers submitted re-enrollment offers for 891,000 expiring acres, reflecting the successes of participating in CRP longer term. The total number of CRP acres will continue to climb in the coming weeks once FSA accepts acres from the Grassland CRP signup, which closed May 26. Additionally, so far this year, FSA has received 761,000 offered acres for the Continuous CRP signup, for which FSA accepts applications year-round.

The number of accepted acres that are enrolled in General CRP will be confirmed later this year. Participating producers and landowners should also remember that submitting and accepting a CRP offer is the first step, and producers still need to develop a conservation plan before contracts become effective on October 1, 2023. Each year, during the window between offer acceptance and land enrollment, some producers ultimately decide not to enroll some accepted acres, without penalty.

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End in Sight for 2023 Cotton Planting

Originally written and published by Cotton Grower.

Another big week in planting progress for the 2023 U.S. cotton crop.

USDA’s Crop Progress report for the week ending June 11 shows that 71% of the U.S. crop is now planted – up another 10 percentage points in the past week, yet 5 points behind the 5-year national average for this week. Most states have now topped the 90% planted mark, with growers in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas trying to catch up despite weather issues and delays in the High Plains/Panhandle/Northern Plains areas.

In all, 12 of the 15 cotton-producing states are currently ahead or equal to their respective state 5-year averages for this date.

Squaring is now reported in 11% of the U.S. crop – up 5 percentage points in the past week but still 3 points off the 5-year average. Squares are now found in 14 of the 15 cotton-producing states.

Overall cotton condition this week shows that 49% of the U.S. crop is rated good/excellent, 36% fair, and 15% poor/very poor.

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Jimie Reed Honored by Plains Pest Management for 50 Years of Service

Originally published by Plains Pest Management

Jimie Reed receiving a gift from Plains Pest Management President Ronald Groves for 50 years of work with the IPM Program.

Jimie Reed, a producer in southern Swisher County, was honored this month by Plains Pest Management for his 50-year involvement with the organization, 35-plus of those years serving as an

elected officer on the steering committee. As an officer Jimie represented his fellow member producers and helped guide the program’s direction. Jimie and his father were active in the organization of Plains Pest Management, the larger, State-wide, Texas Pest Management Association, and the foundation of the Texas IPM Program in the early 1970’s. These organizations work in partnership with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Integrated Pest Management

Programs to address evolving pest issues, advance agriculture, and offer integrated pest management education through pest monitoring and independently conducted local research trials.

Ronald Groves, Plains Pest Management President and Hale County Producer recently addressed the group’s membership at the group’s spring meeting, “Not every county has an IPM Program. Just counties that need that specialized education and are willing to work with and even help fund an agent. The Hale and Swisher IPM Program has been critical in seeing us through many problems and continues to do so. We have had a strong IPM Program for many years and continue to do so with good agents and great volunteer members like Jimie Reed.”

Jimie retired from the Plains Pest Management steering committee in 2023 with his nephew, Jeremy Reed being elected by the membership to be his replacement marking three generations of family volunteerism to the Hale & Swisher IPM program. 

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June 9, 2023

Welcome to the June 9, 2023 issue of Cotton News, a service provided by Plains Cotton Growers Inc. for the cotton industry in the Texas High Plains and beyond.

Pictured: a stand in Meadow, Texas, on May 30.

Texas High Plains Crop Conditions Report

“It’s amazing how things can change in a couple of weeks,” PCG Director of Field Services Mark Brown remarked at the Plains Cotton Advisory Group meeting June 9.

Brown said Gaines County is estimated to have received the least amount of rain this year in the PCG service area, while counties in the northern Panhandle have been flooded with precipitation.

Umbarger, Texas, in Randall County, has received 16.74 inches of rain year-to-date, according to the West Texas Mesonet. Nearly 13 of those inches were received in May.

“I’ve seen really uniform stand emergence this year, but it’s been through some weather these last couple of weeks and some of it has experienced some damage,” Brown added.

Emergence in northern Gaines County near Four Way Gin.

Weed Pressure

Brown also noted that with the recent rains has come some weed pressure. Trent Murphree with BASF agreed and said pigweed is becoming aggressive and producers may need to start applying chemical to keep it at bay. “Some producers applied chemical in March and you can definitely tell — those fields are cleaner,” he added. “And where producers may not have done as much, there’s a solid carpet of pigweed. And you have fields that have Kochia and Russian Thistle as well so be on the lookout for those. Residuals are going to be key this year.”

Field with a stand near the New Mexico state line. True leaves have formed but do show signs of wet weather blight.

Insect Pressure

Suhas Vyavhare, Ph.D., Texas A&M University Extension Service entomologist, said insect pressure remains light for the most part with good looking cotton in Hockley County this week. “If you go north of US 70, you see quite a bit of thrips injury, which is where we normally see higher thrips pressure. Usually, in the South Plains the threat from thrips to seedling cotton subsides substantially by mid-June.”

However, Vyavhare went on to say that due to the amount of “baby cotton” still present in the area and just emerging, his scouting window for thrips would be much wider this season than normal since we’ve had cooler weather and planting delays.

Heat Units 

PCG CEO Kody Bessent likened emerging cotton to a newborn baby, stating, “Baby cotton needs to incubate and get warmed up, and so far, it has not been warm enough.”

However, looking into next week, temperatures are projected to be in the 90s with low chances of rain in the forecast.

10-day forecast for Lubbock, Texas.

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Panhandle Planting Status

Given the deluge of rain the Panhandle experienced in May, some cotton acres will shift to other crops.

Severe flooding in Hereford, Deaf Smith County, Texas, over Memorial Day weekend.

“We probably had about 70% of our booked cottonseed planted,” said Steven Birkenfeld, gin manager for Top of Texas Gin in Deaf Smith County. “But 70% of that will be failed out.”

Leland Gabel, producer in Carson County, struggled to meet the May 31st planting deadline due to the excess moisture.

“I will never complain about the rain and I hope no one else does, either,” he added. “We needed this moisture bad and at least it gives us options to still grow a crop, even if it’s not cotton.”

Quentin Shieldknight, producer in Hansford County, filed for Prevent Plant insurance on all of his irrigated acres; lost 600 dryland acres to hail and flooding; and is struggling with root rot hitting some varieties he did get planted.

Hansford County received 10 to 12 inches of rain in May, according to Shieldknight. He plans to plant cover crops at the end of June on his prevent plant acres. Many producers in the area are planting milo and corn, he said.

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June 2, 2023

Welcome to the June 2, 2023 issue of Cotton News, a service provided by Plains Cotton Growers Inc. for the cotton industry in the Texas High Plains and beyond.

Ag Disaster Relief Grant Not Included in State Budget

A valiant effort to secure $50 million for disaster relief for cotton infrastructure for the 2022 crop year was unfortunately not included in the final budget and supplemental adopted by the Texas Legislature, despite approving a $321.3 billion budget for the biennium as they adjourned Sine Die over the Memorial Day weekend. 

Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. is extremely appreciative of Sen. Charles Perry (District 28) and Rep. Cecil Bell (District 3), as well as South Texas Cotton & Grain Association and the Texas Cotton Ginners Association for the countless hours everyone spent advocating for this much-needed assistance to the cotton industry. Additionally, we would like to thank D. Williams & Co., Inc. as well as many other cotton industry affiliates for their assistance in this effort.

For context, Perry filed a proposed budget rider in the Senate on March 2, 2023 on behalf of the cotton industry that would have established a one-time agricultural disaster relief grant out of federal funds appropriated to the state from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The sole purpose of providing a block grant was to address necessary expenses related to losses of revenue by cotton infrastructure because of natural disasters — including drought during the 2022 crop year. At the behest of the industry, Bell filed an identical budget rider in the House. 

Negotiations ensued and the budget rider was then elevated for consideration among Senate and House Conference Committees for HB1/SB1 and the Supplemental Budget SB30 respectively. 

The rider ultimately was not included in the final legislative package, not for a lack of advocacy, but a lack of overall discretionary spending available in HB1/SB1 by the legislature and competition with repurposed funding available through ARPA within the Natural Resource category. 

For reference, Texas was awarded federal funding through ARPA to be expended or obligated in seven general categories related to COVID-19 assistance. The Natural Resource category was the most applicable category in the supplemental budget for this issue. However, as the supplemental budget was completed, all unexpended and unobligated balances remaining in this category were repurposed for providing supplemental assistance to food banks in response to COVID-19.

While we are disheartened with the current outcome and still acutely aware of the severe financial strain on the overall cotton industry coming out of the 2022 crop year, I remind readers of this not to despair. If you recall, it took almost three years, multiple attempts and countless hours of strategy and strong leadership to ultimately enact the seed-cotton policy producers have today.

This effort relating to infrastructure support is no different in that perspective. While unsuccessful on this attempt, we simply have to regroup, restrategize and refocus on a long-term solution that will help ensure the survival of the cotton industry in times of peril due to forces outside our control. 

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US Ambassador Remarks at Cotton USA Seminar

This is an excerpt of the remarks given by U.S. Ambassador Pete Haas at the Cotton USA Seminar last month (May 2023). The full transcript can be read here

Through substantial cooperation and collaboration with the Government of Bangladesh, led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and immense support from the cotton industry, Bangladesh conducted a risk assessment and concluded that U.S. growers, as of May 16, can now ship cotton to Bangladesh without any market access barriers. 

For our American friends in the room, this is a major win that will unlock U.S. potential in this growing market.   

As I am sure you are all aware, Bangladesh is the second largest global importer of cotton.  It represents the seventh largest export market for U.S. cotton, exceeding $475 million in export value in 2022, and has one of the largest ready-made garment (RMG) export industries in the world. 

For our Bangladeshi friends here today, this is also a huge win.  

Previously, fumigation imposed a days-long delay in the delivery of U.S. cotton, with you, the Bangladeshi importers, picking up the tab, spending a million dollars annually.   

Bottom line: U.S. cotton is the best in the world.  It is high-quality and sustainable—and we have the data to prove it.   

And now it is much easier for you to procure.  

Working together with Bangladesh to solve this issue is a great example of how our two countries can collaborate to increase prosperity and remove trade barriers.   

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Kerry Siders Crop Report

Kerry Siders, is the Texas A&M University Extension Agent-IPM for Cochran, Hockley and Lamb Counties. He wrote this report for Cotton Grower’s Crop Scan report. 

As I write this, it is raining. Now don’t for a minute think that I am saying that our drought is over, but only that we have been heading in the right direction the last few weeks. In May here at my office in Levelland, we received 3.28” of precipitation. Really nothing to brag about for spring rains. However, many parts of this and surrounding counties have had upwards of 7” during May.

This weather during planting has caused some delays and poor stands. Looking at some of my variety trials on the last day of May, I would say that 50% of those will need to be replanted. The soil temperature has been good, but our nighttime temperatures have continued to hover in the mid to upper 50’s — too cool.

Cotton here on the Southern High Plains of Texas is mostly planted. There are dryland acres which still need to be planted as soon as it dries enough to get back in the field. This weather has thrown us a curve ball in the completion of planting, but I think producers will stick with cotton for as long as they can and then may divert acres to alternative crops such as grain sorghum or corn.

Cotton stand evaluations are our priority as we visit fields. Most of our cotton acres are on 40” rows, so we generally count the number of plants in 13’ of row (1/1000th of an acre). We would consider 26 plants (2 plants per foot) in that 13’ space to be 26,000 plants per acre. This would be a minimum good stand on irrigated cotton. Ideally, your stand would have closer to 40,000 plants per acre or closer to 3 plants per foot. Dryland acres can dip down into the 19,000 range or 1.5 plants per row foot.

Weed pressure has really increased with these rains. As soon as planting is over and stands are established or maybe even sooner, producers need to turn their attention to weed management. Post-emerge herbicides like Roundup, Liberty, XtendiMax, or Enlist will need to be used along with the addition of a residual herbicide.

Another issue that producers will need to revisit due to the recent rains is their fertilizer program, matched up with a new realistic yield goal. We often do this recalculation too late in June or July and are behind the growth curve to do much good and can cause delay in cotton plant maturity. Here very soon will be the time to react to these rains.

Thrips have been light up to this point. As this cotton has been slow to grow-off and many acres are just now emerging, thrips could rapidly develop and be devastating. Fields must be scouted! A good field scout can pay for itself.

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May 26, 2023

Welcome to the May 26, 2023 issue of Cotton News, a service provided by Plains Cotton Growers Inc. for the cotton industry in the Texas High Plains and beyond.

Upland Cotton Production in the US, Texas and PCG Service Area

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service released its latest crop production report May 12, 2023. 

2022 Production

According to the report, an estimated 13.6 million acres were planted nationwide. Seven million of those acres were harvested, producing nearly 14 million bales. 

Texas planted 7.85 million acres, harvesting 2 million for an estimated production of 3 million bales. 

The Texas High Plains planted roughly 4.8 million acres and harvested 961,000 of those acres for a production estimate of 1.5 million bales. 

Carson County holds the title for most production in the 2022 crop year with 113,800 bales, while Hockley County came in fifth at 94,700 bales. 

A full report of PCG’s 42-county production numbers can be found here.

2023 Forecast

USDA’s initial projection for 2023/24 U.S. cotton production is 15.5 million bales, 7% (1 million bales) above the final 2022/23 estimate. The Prospective Plantings report estimates 2023/24 cotton planted area at 11.3 million acres, 2.5 million acres below the 2022/23 estimate. Market price, weather, production costs and potential program benefits will all play a key role in determining planted cotton acres this year, according to the USDA Cotton and Wool Outlook report released in May. USDA will update the plantings estimate at the end of June. 

Advisory Group Outlook

cotton field after a rain

Mark Brown captured rain standing in a field in Crosby County. “It’s been months since I’ve seen something like that,” he said.

This morning (May 26, 2023) the Plains Cotton Advisory Group gathered to discuss crop conditions. Rather than focusing on the lack of rain, current weather conditions provided a new topic: planting when it’s wet.

While there are challenges associated with rain like difficulty in meeting planting deadlines, soil temperatures not quite warm enough and the increased potential for hail with weather events in this region, the overall consensus was summed up by South Texas Cotton and Grain Executive Director Jeff Nunley. “I will say, having moisture is way better than being dry.” 

When 65% of the High Plains and the state consists of dryland cotton acres, rain is a necessity for higher production levels. To make an average or above average crop, the group agreed a dryland crop has to be made. 

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NASA’s Role in Agriculture

NASA expects to work more closely with farmers and other members of the agriculture community through a new program called Acres.

Established in March, Acres is a consortium of partners working across the U.S. agricultural spectrum to develop observatory-based data and tools to help increase food production, while protecting or restoring soil, water and other natural resources, says Alyssa Whitcraft, founding director and a professor in the department of geographical sciences at the University of Maryland. University staff provide administration and oversight for Acres.

Three of the consortium partners’ broad objectives for Acres include:

1. Supporting a deeper understanding of U.S. agricultural land use, productivity and sustainability.

2. Developing on-farm decision support tools for smart agronomy.

3. Strengthening environmental and human resilience to climate change and global hazards.

Rhonda Brooks
Farm Journal

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Ag Census Deadline: May 31

WUSDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) says the deadline for producers to return 2022 ag census forms is Wednesday, May 31, either by mail or online at

USDA NASS is reminding ag census recipients that if they produced and sold $1,000 or more of agricultural product in 2022, or normally would have produced and sold that much, they meet USDA’s definition of a farm.

However, landowners who lease land to producers, those solely involved in conservation programs, and even those who may not have farmed in 2022 are still required to respond. 

Producers who received the ag census but do not fit the definition of a farm, are no longer farming, never farmed, or have another update for NASS should write their status on the form and mail it back.

Ag census data are used by agribusinesses, educators, researchers, federal and local government, and many others when making decisions about farm programs, loans, insurance, rural development, disaster assistance, and more. Not responding means not being represented in these widely used data, and therefore risk being underserved. For assistance filling out the ag census, call 888-424-7828.

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May 19, 2023

Welcome to the May 19, 2023 issue of Cotton News, a service provided by Plains Cotton Growers Inc. for the cotton industry in the Texas High Plains and beyond.

50-Year Fumigation Rule Lifted on U.S. Cotton Imports

The Bangladesh government has lifted its fumigation requirement on U.S. cotton imports, which has been in effect for nearly 50 years. 

This shift will remove a significant export barrier for U.S. cotton to Bangladesh, as well as saving Bangladeshi mills time and money as they look to the U.S. to fill their cotton fiber import needs. 

Bangladeshi mills have been paying over a million dollars annually to cover unnecessary fumigation costs imposed on cotton imported from the U.S.

U.S. exporters will continue to use APHIS-generated phytosanitary certificates, but under the new regulation, the certificate will have additional language confirming no live boll weevils are in U.S. baled cotton. APHIS will issue revised instructions for exporters.

Bangladesh’s Agricultural and Commerce Ministries’ decision to lift the fumigation requirements on U.S. cotton came after six Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture delegation members joined a CCI-sponsored U.S. cotton tour. 

The Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture delegation met with U.S. cotton industry representatives and visited cotton fields, gins and warehouses, and the USDA Agricultural Ginning Research Laboratory.

The tour included a review of the U.S. cotton industry’s successful Boll Weevil Eradication Program and its modern cotton harvesting and ginning techniques. 

Bangladesh currently ranks as the No. 2 global importer of cotton, according to the May 2023 USDA FAS global market analysis. 

Although there is domestic cotton produced in Bangladesh, it is 1% or less of total demand. 

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2022 Emergency Relief Program

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced plans to roll out $3.7 billion in Emergency Relief Program (ERP) and Emergency Livestock Relief Program (ELRP) assistance to crop and livestock producers who sustained losses due to a qualifying natural disaster event in calendar year 2022. USDA is sharing early information to allow producers time to gather documents in advance of program delivery. Through distribution of remaining funds, USDA is also concluding the 2021 ELRP program by sending payments in the amount of 20% of the initial ELRP payment to all existing recipients.

“U.S. agricultural producers nationwide endured crippling natural disaster events in 2022 including a megadrought, Hurricane Ian, epic flooding and catastrophic wildfires. To say these events were costly is an understatement,” Vilsack said. “Last year USDA streamlined the delivery of natural disaster assistance, speeding up the timing of payments and cutting the time spent on paperwork by 90% or one million hours relative to previous disaster programs. While we will use the same streamlined approaches, funding is limited and significantly less than the estimated losses. We are designing payment factors that ensure the fair, equitable and efficient delivery of program benefits to help as many producers as possible offset the significant financial impacts resulting from these ongoing and widespread natural disasters.”


On December 29, 2022, President Biden signed into law the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2023 (P.L. 117-328) that provides about $3.7 billion in financial assistance for agricultural producers impacted by wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, winter storms and other eligible disasters occurring in calendar year 2022.

Additionally, the Act specifically targets up to about $500 million to livestock producers for losses incurred due to drought or wildfire in calendar year 2022.

ERP 2022 for Crop Producers

USDA, through the Farm Service Agency (FSA), intends to deploy the lessons learned from the development and implementation of ERP and ELRP for previous years’ losses to ensure expedited assistance for 2022 losses.

Based on positive feedback from producers, stakeholder groups and FSA county office staff, USDA intends to provide an ERP track for producers who had coverage through Risk Management Agency’s federal crop insurance or FSA’s Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP). Through a streamlined application process, USDA intends to be in a position to send pre-filled applications directly to eligible producers in early summer.

For producers who have not been able to avail themselves of risk management coverage or whose losses were not covered, USDA intends to offer a program track to access ERP assistance with assistance provided to producers who suffered a decrease in allowable gross revenue in 2022 due to necessary expenses related to losses of eligible crops from a qualifying natural disaster event.

Instead of implementing these program tracks as two separate phases on different timelines, FSA intends to make both tracks available to producers at the same time, noting that the first track will follow a streamlined process with less paperwork burden, based on existing, available risk management data. The second ERP track would require that producers provide FSA with certain information related to revenue.

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WASDE Analysis

U.S. cotton is projected to plant less acreage in 2023 but will see higher production than in 2022.

The 2022 cotton crop saw a record level of abandonment, with 13.76 million acres planted but only 7.31 million acres harvested, mainly due to dry conditions in Texas.

Currently, USDA projects 11.26 million acres planted with 8.71 million acres harvested. It will be important to keep an eye on acres abandoned as the year advances, with growing conditions in West Texas remaining dry. In the May WASDE, U.S. cotton production is projected at 15.50 million bales, a 7% increase from 2022. 

On the demand side, exports are expected to increase by 0.9 million bales to 13.5 million bales. With higher exports, cotton ending stocks are projected to decrease by 0.20 million bales to 3.30 million bales. 

The average farm price is projected to weaken to 78 cents per pound. 

William Maples, Ph.D.
Extension Economist
Mississippi State University

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Letter to the Editor: W.B.’s Suitcase

W.B. was a good farmer and friend. I enjoyed working with him at Plains Cotton Growers. Reading your article made me think of the first time W.B. came with me to Washington D.C. 

He had brand new luggage with him that required a key to open. 

As soon as we got to our rooms, he realized he couldn’t find the key and was locked out of his suitcase. We got it figured out without having to break into his luggage. The situation wasn’t funny to him until after the fact. 

After I read the article, I called him and we picked back up right where we left off many years ago. We spent a lot of time on the phone that afternoon, but as the article stated, we both have plenty of it. 

-Don Johnson, former PCG executive vice president (1965-1997)

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PCG Educates the Next Generation

Fourth graders from seven different elementary schools in Ochiltree County were excited to learn about cotton May 16, 2023, at the water festival put on by the North Plains Groundwater

PCG Director of Field Services Mark Brown discusses cotton bales with fourth graders in Perryton, Texas, at the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District water festival.

Conservation District.

The students were able to touch seed cotton, cotton lint and learn about the different products made from cotton. Some of their comments were pretty entertaining: 

“Cotton is in ice cream? That’s so cool.”

“I’ve washed lots of dollar bills on accident – there’s cotton in money?” 

“I guess you could say money does grow on trees!” 

“I busted a baseball once, all that fluff in there was cotton?” 

Director of Field Services Mark Brown emphasized the drought tolerance of cotton and the enhanced efficiency of cotton producers’ water usage over time. 

Inspiring passion in future generations for this way of life is a privilege we get to participate in as an organization. It takes hours of travel time and preparation, yet the enthusiasm for cotton is all worth it as we hope to produce more advocates for the cotton industry and production agriculture. 

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May 12, 2023

W.B. Criswell

Welcome to the May 12, 2023 issue of Cotton News, a service provided by Plains Cotton Growers Inc. for the cotton industry in the Texas High Plains and beyond.

About Time: Reflections of a Cotton Industry Pioneer

By Kara Bishop

W.B. Criswell, Lubbock County producer, served as PCG President from 1975 to 1977.

On a quiet neighborhood street in Idalou, Texas, sits a 92-year-old man looking for ways to pass the time. Time is funny that way. One minute you’re at the peak of your career, raising children, serving on multiple civic and industry boards. Vacationing. Taking pictures. Preserving memories, and then the next minute comes.

And the memories are all you have left.

The fireplace is decorated with those memories, the office is lined with plaques and certificates of accomplishments. The TV plays in the background to break through the deafening silence. And the old grandfather clock ticks on.

Tic..tic…tok. Tic…tic…tok.

To his neighbors, he’s a quiet, older gentleman, keeping to himself and suffering loss the past couple of years. They have no idea of the trailblazer that still resides in the heart of W.B. Criswell. Even today, the cotton industry feels his impact.


On March 10, 1951, Criswell married fellow Idalou native, Jo Ellen Barnhart. They moved to Melbourne, Florida, shortly after — a member of the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, Criswell was stationed at Patrick Air Force Base.

Together, they spent four years raising two children, Rodney and Teresa, in an 8-foot by 23-foot trailer.

When W.B.’s service ended, the Criswells moved back to Idalou where they welcomed their third child, Gary, and began farming in 1956.

W.B. always knew farming would be his livelihood and was the third generation of his family to carry the torch.  While reading the paper one day, he came across an advertisement of a monthly meeting. The organization was in its early infancy — established just a few months before W.B. moved back home. The name? Plains Cotton Growers.

“I believed in the mission,” W.B. recalled. “I knew it was important for farmers to have a voice in policy, so I became a member that day.”


Even in the U.S. Air Force, W.B. was a forward thinker. He worked in the research department developing ways to enhance satellite technology for communication devices.

“The foundation of the technology on that right there came from our work in the military,” he added, pointing to the smartphone on the table.

The first “module builder” was developed on W.B.’s farm. From 1975 to 1976, Cotton Incorporated would use W.B.’s land and resources to develop a module builder — allowing for more efficient transport of cotton to the gins.

“All of the farmers were waiting on a certain amount of trailers to carry their crop to the gins,” he recalled. “We tried the ricker first, which was more of a storage container for the cotton until the next available trailer arrived for transport. The following year, we were able to build modules that could be transported by trucks. And that’s when we started making strides in efficient cotton transportation.”

W.B. spent the next three decades actively involved in PCG, assuming the president’s role in 1975. He was a member of the Cotton Incorporated Board of Directors and a delegate of the National Cotton Council. During his presidential tenure, he advocated for the cotton industry in Washington D.C., helping to develop the 1977 U.S. Farm Bill.

Every weekend for four months during the summer of 1976, W.B. flew into Washington where his Congressman, Rep. George H. Mahon (D-Texas), was waiting for him. There was much work to be done.

The 1973 Farm Bill terminated a $10 million annual authorization for cotton promotion and research facilitated by Cotton Inc. and reduced the commodity payment limit for producers from $55,000 (1970 Farm Bill) to $20,000.

W.B. Criswell’s best crop year was 1973. He made 1.5 bales per acre.

After months of advocacy and education, the agriculture industry was happy with the strength of the 1977 legislation.

In this legislation, Title XIV: National Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching Policy Act was established, which designated the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the lead federal agency for agricultural research, extension and teaching in the food and agricultural sciences.

It also established a target price program, in which the government would pay the difference to producers should the market price fall below the agreed-upon benchmark.

“I believe the 1977 Farm Bill was the foundation of all future legislation,” W.B. said. “It did a lot for producers when it was passed.

The two crop years after the 1977 Farm Bill went into effect were good years; therefore, the government didn’t have to worry about the parity price payments. However, 1979 went differently.

“When the government realized they were going to have to pay a pretty hefty price difference — I believe market prices were in the low 50s — they modified the ruling,” W.B. added.

This was one of the “straws that broke the camel’s back,” resulting in the 1979 “Tractorcade,” where thousands of farmers rallied on the National Mall. Tractors were everywhere. At 15 miles-per-hour, farmers covered maybe one hundred miles per day, often resting their equipment on the side of the highways leading to Washington. They traveled in convoy fashion, and according to the Smithsonian Institution Archives, “descended on the nation’s Capitol Feb. 5, 1979.”

“I knew of several who went,” W.B. recalled. “But from an organization standpoint, PCG decided that we would strive for change through policy. That was our whole mission.

Cotton Incorporated developed the module builder on W.B. Criswell’s farm in 1976.

“While those were some interesting times, I learned so much those few months on the Hill and the two years I was PCG President. I am a better person because of it and am proud of the work we accomplished.”


W.B. wasn’t just a farmer. He was also a cowboy, home renovator and custom harvester.

He bought 10 Registered Black Angus heifers in 1956. “I knew that if I needed money in a pinch, or had a bad crop year, I could sell some cows to stay afloat,” he said.

At one point, W.B. and his business partner, Buddy Hettler, were working with 2,200 head.

They worked cattle all over West Texas and whether they were close to home or in the Plainview area, their wives would still bring them dinner. The men were always amazed that no matter how many miles away from home they were, the food was always hot.

W.B. bought two cotton strippers so he could add another stream of income to his bottom line. The crop seasons in different regions worked well for his side business. “We’d plant our cotton, then head to South Texas to harvest theirs,” he added.

In the middle of farming cotton, working cattle and serving on bank boards, PCG board, city boards and civic duties, W.B. headed to the bank to ask for a home construction loan. “I wanted to flip some houses in Ruidoso, New Mexico,” he recalled. “The bank didn’t like it — thought it was not worth the risk — but they worked with me anyway and it was a profitable venture.”

Originally, W.B. started with 160 acres in 1956, working his way up to just shy of 1,000 before retirement. He still remembers his best crop.

“It was 1973,” he said. “I made 1.5 bales per acre that year.”

Even with his responsibilities, one of W.B.’s favorite things about his livelihood was the ability to be with his children.

W.B. Criswell’s oldest son, Rodney, sits on the family tractor.


“While you worked long hours farming, you could be present to watch your kids play sports or extracurriculars,” W.B. said. “I had to make the hours up, of course, but I always liked that farming allowed me to be present.”

He and Jo Ellen enjoyed 70 years of marriage together. They travelled to all 50 United States promoting cotton everywhere they went. His wife served as president of the Lubbock County Women’s Cotton Ancillary and was Chair of the Lubbock County Miss Cotton Contest in the 1970s. She had a knack for conservation — rarely threw anything away — was resourceful to the point of purchasing a TV with S&H green stamps and was renowned for her letter correspondence. Jo Ellen passed away April 15, 2021.

While the Criswell kids were busy with school and sports growing up, they also worked on the farm, and even after graduation, Rodney helped with the custom harvesting business, farmed for himself for several years, and sprayed fields for the boll weevil eradication program. He is now retired, driving a truck for Idalou Co-op Gin when they need him.

Teresa served as a Gaines County extension agent for many years, and is now retired from working as the state 4-H director in College Station.

Gary, a sales representative with Becknell Wholesale Company, developed a love for motorcycles, along with his father. They often rode together, and even this year, W.B. drove his convertible alongside Gary enjoying the hill country on the ride that he and 20 others from the Lubbock area go on every year.

On April 16, they parted ways in Junction, Texas. Gary headed back to the Corpus Christi area; and W.B. came back to Idalou with some merchandise that Gary had asked him to return to Bucknell.

W.B. was home for an hour before Rodney came through the door to tell him Gary had a fatal accident. “He told me he was going to take a route we never take; it has a lot of curves and winding road, and we lost him.”

Time seems even slower now, yet the clock’s rhythm never changes.

Tic…tic…tok. Tic…tic…tok.

The paths he forged for the cotton industry may be forgotten by most; however, the influence lives on as others take up the mantel to protect and promote the interests of High Plains cotton producers.

Outliving friends and family, he sits in the same silence he’s been in for two years waiting for time to pass. But, that’s OK. He knows Gary is keeping Jo Ellen company as they also wait on him.

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May 5, 2023

Welcome to the May 5, 2023 issue of Cotton News, a service provided by Plains Cotton Growers Inc. for the cotton industry in the Texas High Plains and beyond.

High Plains Pre-Planting Conditions

With planting season right around the corner, everyone is on the same page.

It needs to rain. 

Lubbock County and surrounding areas received a much-needed drink the evening of May 2 and early morning May 3. “We thank God for that, but Levelland only registered about 0.26 inches,” said Kerry Siders, Integrated Pest Management extension agent for Cochran, Hockley and Lamb Counties. “We need some more.” 

The Lord must have been listening. Some parts of Lubbock and Lynn Counties have received 1 inch to 1.89 inches of rain in the last 48 hours. Levelland received an additional 0.41 inches last night, according to Siders who is the National Weather Service observer for Levelland.

Moisture Concerns 

While we could always use more timely planting rains, producers saw a morale boost after last week’s tease of wet weather that never happened. 

“Looking at regional moisture from last night (May 2), it looks like Gaines County might have been a big winner with some areas that received three-quarters to 1 inch of rain,” Siders added. “And we had a good amount of rain over a large area, but some areas still didn’t see much precipitation. We’re still very much in drought.” 

Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Service has identified a prime target date range of May 15 to May 20 to start evaluating moisture, soil temps and air temperature for planting. The nighttime temperatures begin to level out around that time above 60 degrees, so the risk of chilling injury is lessened. 

“With the size of equipment today, I think most of these producers can get across the majority of their acres in a timely fashion,” Siders said. “I know we’re always concerned about getting the crop in early so we don’t get caught with cold weather in October, but that won’t matter if we can’t get a stand up. It wouldn’t hurt to wait a little bit and see if we can catch a little more rain before planting.”

According to Siders, it wasn’t unheard of for people 25 years ago to say that rain supplements irrigation. “That’s the furthest thing from the truth today. It’s the opposite. Irrigation can’t keep up anymore. We must have rainfall.” 

Soil Temperatures

Looking at the forecast, Siders believes we’re “over the hump” on low soil temperatures. While occasionally below 55 degrees, soil temps are trending upward. 

“I have been concerned about some of the colder temperatures and cold fronts that have blown in earlier this month, but it looks to be levelling off.” 

What’s the Plan? 

Siders said he’s cautiously optimistic about this crop year. 

“I’ve yet to see much benefit from this supposed El Nino pattern, but we may see it kick in.” 

Producers feel they’re in the same mode as they were a year ago today — almost a repeat of last year. “And until we see this drought broken with sufficient rainfall, we’re probably going to hold our cards tight to the chest this year before we pull the trigger.” 

Siders is hopeful that we’ll see more rain over the next 10 to 14 days and believes that most producers are patiently waiting it out as well. 

“We haven’t received a 40-inch rainfall season since 2004 and it’s been a while since we’ve seen more than 20 inches. However, at this point, we’d all be more than happy with our yearly average of 17 in this area.” 

In terms of plans, producers usually have two or three, Siders added. A plan for several scenarios makes a smart producer since every year different circumstances are experienced. 

“That’s the nature of this business we’re in,” he said. “And thank God, we’ve got the best farmers in the world making these decisions.”  

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Weather Outlook

Jacob Riley, chief meteorologist for KLBK-TV. Photo credit: KLBK.

Jacob Riley, chief meteorologist for KLBK-TV, told the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce Agricultural Committee that this year will be better than last year. “But we probably won’t have any drought-busting rains.”

Over the next six to 10 days, most of the region has a slightly above-average chance for precipitation, while the eight to 14 day forecast (May 11-17) shows a 50% chance of above-average precipitation. 

“Unfortunately, this could come with hail, high winds and possibly severe storms,” Riley added. 

Overall things are looking to get a little bit more active through May as we head into the weekend of May 13 in terms of moisture.

Overall, temperatures will remain pretty mild compared to average over the summer season, Riley added. This will not be the hottest summer on record for the South Plains region or the state. 

“We will see bouts of monsoon moisture increase over the next several months, resulting in average precipitation through the growing season,” he said.  “Overall, drought conditions will likely slightly improve now through late summer.”




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Memories are Made in Cotton: Cotton Inc.’s New Advertising Campaign

Cotton Incorporated announced their new advertising campaign, which illustrates the common thread of our best memories: cotton!

Everyone has core memories made in cotton, but Cotton Inc.’s new campaign shows that cotton is as much a part of our future as it is our past.  

Watch the new commercial below.

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April 28, 2023

Welcome to the April 28, 2023 issue of Cotton News, a service provided by Plains Cotton Growers Inc. for the cotton industry in the Texas High Plains and beyond.

Producer Perspectives on the 2023 Farm Bill

Shawn Holladay, producer in Dawson County, PCG past president and current chair of the National Cotton Council, testifies on behalf of the U.S. cotton industry at the House Ag Committee Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities, Risk Management and Credit’s hearing, “Producer Perspectives on the 2023 Farm Bill.”

The House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities, Risk Management and Credit held a hearing Wednesday, April 26, 2023, to review producers’ needs for the upcoming Farm Bill.

Among the witnesses was Shawn Holladay, Dawson County producer, PCG past president and current chair of the National Cotton Council. 

In Holladay’s opening statement, he emphasized key priorities of the Farm Bill that would be beneficial to the U.S. cotton industry.

Seed cotton reference price

“Since 2018, cotton costs of production have increased by 20 cents per pound, based on average yields of 800 pounds per acre,” Holladay. “For many producers, total production costs now range between 90 cents and $1 per pound, which exceed current futures prices trading in the mid-80s.” When calculated based on seed cotton, the total costs to produce a pound of seed cotton have risen nearly 9 cents since the 2018 Farm Bill, with current costs of production at almost 48 cents.

This is far above the seed cotton reference price of 36.7 cents per pound. 

“The current reference prices were set in the 2014 Farm Bill using 2012 data, which is outdated,” said Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), subcommittee chair. “Even three years old would be too old at this point, given the increase in input prices.” 

When Scott asked for the break-even cotton lint price producers need in relation to the seed cotton reference price, Holladay answered: “To break even, a producer would need a 85 cent to 95 cent lint price depending on what all he put into his crop.” 

Multiple Representatives sitting on the subcommittee made mention of reference prices and the need to raise them to alleviate financial strain on producers.

Crop insurance

Currently, producers enrolled in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs are limited in their access to crop insurance, “due to a prohibition on the purchase of the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) on their enrolled farm,” Holladay said. “At the beginning of the prohibition, during the 2019 crop year, most growers chose to enroll their base acres in PLC. However, with higher cotton futures prices for the 2021 and 2022 crops, and limited effectiveness of the current seed cotton reference price, STAX has become a more attractive option. 

Holladay emphasized to the subcommittee that producers should be able to manage risk based on the needs of their operation. Eliminating the prohibition on simultaneous enrollment in PLC and STAX, as well as boosting the top coverage level of STAX for those farms with no seed cotton base — or who forego enrollment in ARC/PLC — would allow them to tailor their risk management options according to the needs of their operation. In turn, this will also decrease producers’ reliance on ad hoc programs, putting producers in charge of their own production risks. 

Cotton loan programs

Mr. Scott also asked Holladay about the effectiveness of raising loan rates. 

“We use the marketing loan frequently in cotton,” he responded. “Most of our cotton is exported, so we experience unique issues in terms of shipping, storage and marketing.” He went on to say that raising the loan rate would not be a large cost item to Congress, yet would have a significant impact on the amount of working capital producers can obtain when prices have dipped to break-even or lower.” 

Even in times of higher market prices, the marketing loan programs are utilized by the cotton industry to provide cash flow for producers and flexibility in marketing to encourage orderly movement of the crop throughout the year.

Despite higher production costs, the maximum level of the loan rate has remained at 52 cents since 2002. 

Holladay said the level of the loan rate should be increased to better reflect current costs of production and recent market prices. 

“In addition, loan repayment provisions should be modernized to better reflect the competitive landscape in the global market and the higher storage and logistics costs facing the industry,” he added. 

While the hearing was divided into two different segments totaling more than six hours of discussion, subcommittee members were eager to hear how they could better serve Rural America.

As House Agriculture Committee Chair Glenn “GT “ Thompson (R-Pa.) stated in his opening remarks of the hearing, “To get the policy right, we need to hear directly from the voices in the countryside rather than the (Washington D.C.) Beltway.” 

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PCG CEO Kody Bessent, PCG President Martin Stoerner, STCGA President Paul Freund, PCG Executive Committee Member Steve Olson, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), STCGA Board Member Jon Whatley, SRPCGA Board Member Doyle Schniers, STCGA Board Member Matt Huie, NCC Chair Shawn Holladay and STCGA Executive Director Jeff Nunley.

PCG joined South Texas Cotton and Grain Association (STCGA), Southern Rolling Plains Cotton Growers Association (SRPCGA) and the National Cotton Council (NCC) at the U.S. Capitol to advocate for a strong 2023 Farm Bill this week.

“It was an effective trip and one of many to come as the 2023 Farm Bill process is fully underway,” Bessent said. “We appreciate STCGA, SRPCGA and the NCC for their partnership on this trip and their efforts in emphasizing the need for strong farm policy for the cotton industry nationwide.” 

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