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March 1, 2024

Welcome to the March 1, 2024 issue of Cotton News, a service provided by Plains Cotton Growers Inc. for the cotton industry in the Texas High Plains and beyond.

Still Standing: The Fighting Spirit of Aud

Texas Panhandle Wildfires Burn Through One Million Acres

By Kara Bishop

 

If you ever want to know when you’re about to arrive in Canadian, Texas, just look for Aud.

Photo Credit: Jake Reeves, “Post Cards from the Panhandle” Facebook Group.

She’s a bright green dinosaur sitting atop a hill just south of the Hemphill County Seat. The creation of Gene Cockrell named after his wife, Audrey. A focal point for kids traveling to see grandparents in the summer and a symbol of happiness for a small Panhandle town.

And for the past few days, she’s been all over the news. Except this time, she’s surrounded by smoke.

Photo Credit: Chad Casey, Fox 4 Storm Chaser

Multiple wildfires began eating their way through the Texas Panhandle on Monday. With 50 to 60 mile-per-hour winds on both Monday and Tuesday with little containment progress, more than 1 million acres have burned. More land mass than the entire state of Rhode Island.

It’s a heartbreaking situation. People have lost homes, livestock, and loved ones. There are many photos on social media showcasing the devastation of land, cattle and communities.

You can find all the news you want to on this fire online. Everyone is covering it, so I’m not going to.

Today, I’m going to focus on Aud and what she represents.

I don’t know why Gene Cockrell made a concrete dinosaur and put it on top of a hill. A dinosaur statue seems like an odd thing to add to pastureland. Some say he did it to let the children know when they were almost home after long car rides. It’s a cool story and could be true based on the multitude of memories shared on social media of coming over the top of the hill and seeing Aud on their way into Canadian when traveling.

Whatever the reason, the dinosaur statue could not be more fitting for times like these. Most people believe that the Behemoth referenced in chapter 40 of Job in the Bible is a type of dinosaur. In verse 23 of that same chapter the text says, “Behold if the river is turbulent he (Behemoth/dinosaur) is not frightened; he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth.”

The dinosaur mentioned there stood strong and never wavered though the river rushed at him. Fire rushed Canadian earlier this week, and Aud is still standing.

She represents the resilience of Panhandle Texans because they have been through it the past couple of years. Last May, our social media feeds were full of people trying to help Perryton after the tornado ripped through the town. Now, everyone is banding together to help Hemphill, Hutchinson and all counties affected.

Watching the ag community take care of their own is a beautiful thing, even amid devastation. While we wish so badly this tragic event had not happened, it does illustrate the beautiful dimension to humanity when we all come together.

Aud the dinosaur outside Canadian surrounded by scorched acres. But she’s still standing.

Plains Cotton Growers is praying for all those affected by the Panhandle wildfires. And one day, we won’t endure tragedy as Isaiah says:

“But now thus says the LORD…I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

How You Can Help:

Here are reputable crisis relief resources actively seeking to help our ranching neighbors – many of whom have lost land, livestock, and homes:

WRCA Natural Disaster Relief Fund

Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Disaster Relief Fund

TDA STAR Fund

Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine Relief Drive

  • Accepting water, food and supplies at 7671 Evans Drive, Amarillo, TX 79106
  • Contact Tommy Butler: 806-228-0511

Texas Farm Bureau Texas Panhandle Wildfire Relief Fund

Examples of Neighbors Taking Care of Neighbors

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Upcoming Events

Great Plains Soil Fertility Conference
Date: March 4-5, 2024
Location: McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center, Lubbock, Texas

Plains Cotton Advisory Group Meeting
Date: March 8, 2024
Location: PCG Conference Room

Auxin Certification Training – Lubbock 
Date: March 8, 2024
Location: AgriLife Research and Extension – Lubbock Center

Pesticide Applicators Training (To Obtain TDA License) – Levelland
Date: March 14, 2024
Location: Levelland, Texas

For a full list of upcoming events, see the Events Page.

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January 26, 2024

Welcome to the January 26, 2024 issue of Cotton News, a service provided by Plains Cotton Growers Inc. for the cotton industry in the Texas High Plains and beyond.

Registrations for the Plains Cotton Growers Annual Meeting is Now Open!

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‘We Feed the Masses’

First published in Agri-Pulse, written by South Texas Cotton and Grain Association Executive Director Jeff Nunley

“We feed the masses.” That was the response of one of my farmers to our Uber driver who shared with us that he was an organic “farmer” that had recently bought 15 acres in Pennsylvania to grow his own organic food. I was impressed with the insight of my farmer’s comment and how it relates to the war on “big” agriculture by many who have the misguided belief that a farm should be small, diverse, and focused on the wants of the wealthy elite rather than the needs of ordinary Americans who work hard to support their families and put food on the table.

U.S. Agriculture has evolved over decades to be the envy of the world in its ability to provide safe and abundant food and fiber for our country and the world. No other country enjoys a food supply that costs consumers on average less than 10% of their household income. Consumers take for granted that grocery shelves will be full of the items they want at prices that are reasonable and predictable.

Empty store shelves during the Covid pandemic, and more recently rampant inflation following the pandemic, brought into sharp focus how sensitive consumers are to scarcity and increasing food costs. More than anything else, these events reinforced the importance and strategic value of maintaining a strong, stable, domestic agriculture industry and providing a safety-net for the farmers that underpin the entire system.

The marvel of our U.S. food and fiber supply system is due to constant improvements in efficiency throughout the supply chain, but particularly due to improvements at the farm level – where it all begins.

When soldiers returned home after WWII, many pursued other opportunities rather than returning to the farm. For those who remained, farm size grew. Improvements in farm equipment, like tractors and harvest equipment, allowed farmers to cover more ground with less labor. Advances in agricultural science and technology along with the adoption of advanced farming practices have provided a constant pace of improvement that has evolved into the production agriculture we know today.

Today’s farmers produce more output with less inputs than ever before. Farmers use less fuel, fertilizer, water, pesticides, and labor for unit of output today than they did just 10 years ago. The average U.S. farmer has less environmental impact and produces more sustainably than anywhere else in the world. As a result of the constant improvements in efficiency on the farm, food prices have decreased over time. When I was in college in the mid-1980s, food costs were $1 of every $5 of household income. That number today is less than $1 of every $10 in household income, even factoring in that away-from-home consumption has increased over the same time. As farmers have increased efficiency, the gains have not translated into improved profits. Rather, these gains have been passed through the system to the ultimate benefit of consumers – this is the nature of commodity markets. Affordable food and fiber made possible by efficient, full-time farming operations underpins our economy by allowing consumers to spend more of their income on goods and services other than food and clothing.

Farming has always been a high-risk, capital intensive, and low profit margin business. Farmers’ income is a function of their yield (which depends on timing, weather, and skill) and the commodity price (subject to global supplies and the actions of foreign governments).

U.S. farm policy has evolved along with the changes in production agriculture with the consistent goal of providing a safety net that helps farmers survive weather and market conditions beyond their control. Farm Bill programs like counter-cyclical payments and crop insurance are intended to preserve the strategic resource of domestic agriculture knowing that farmers cannot enter and exit the business like gamblers at a roulette wheel.

Recently, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has lamented that 84% of farm program payments go to only 12% of farmers in our country. What’s wrong with that? When you consider that 12% of farmers (roughly 240,000 farms) are responsible for over 80% of agricultural production in this country, it sounds like the support is going where it should. Keep in mind that this 12% are not “mega-farms”, rather the overwhelming majority are family farming operations with gross cash farm income above $350,000 that have grown to keep pace with the economics of low margins and high capital costs.

It troubles me that this USDA has decided the scales should be tipped in favor of small hobby farms like that of our Uber driver, who would qualify as a farmer in the eyes of USDA. But his livelihood does not depend on his farm like those full-time farmers that USDA has decided to penalize.

It also troubles me that this USDA and others have decided that the economic realities that created the marvel of our modern agriculture and food system are wrong, and they know better. I fear that the well-meaning, but ill-informed who believe we should divert support away from full-time farmers and instead target them to fashionable, feel good social engineering that benefits folks like our Uber driver will undermine an industry that provides the foundation for our country.

Finally, I fear that this increasingly popular notion that “big” agriculture is bad could lead us down the road to less efficient, more costly agriculture. The biggest loser of that will be American consumers, especially those who already struggle to put food on the table.

“We feed the masses.” Yep. That’s us. The 240,000 farmers that are the workhorses of our industry. We deserve to be treated fairly.

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Upcoming Events

Dalhart Crops Conference
Date: February 6, 2024
Location: Frank Phillips College

PCG Advisory Group Meeting
Date: February 9, 2024
Location: Plains Cotton Growers Conference Room

Soil Health Symposium
Date: February 13-14, 2024
Location: West Texas A&M University

Getting to Know Your Soil
Date: February 15, 2024
Location: TTU Native Rangeland

For a full list of upcoming events, see the Events Page.

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January 19, 2024

Welcome to the January 19, 2024 issue of Cotton News, a service provided by Plains Cotton Growers Inc. for the cotton industry in the Texas High Plains and beyond.

Making the ARC/PLC Election for 2024

First published in “Southern Ag Today” by Bart Fischer and Joe Outlaw

On November 16, 2023, President Biden signed H.R. 6363 – the Further Continuing Appropriations and Other Extensions Act of 2024 – into law. The bill extended the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill), reauthorizing programs like the Agriculture Risk (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs through September 30, 2024. Producers will have an opportunity to make a one-time election between ARC and PLC for the 2024 crop year. USDA opened the election and enrollment period on December 18, 2023, and it runs through March 15, 2024.

The ARC/PLC decision for 2024 is against the backdrop of a general softening in prices, but the implications vary by crop. For some crops, the decision may be clear-cut.

As we have noted in the past, we highly encourage you to also look at tools like the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) or the Enhanced Coverage Option (ECO), both of which provide area-wide coverage for part of the deductible not covered by your underlying policy. Importantly, if you elect ARC, you cannot purchase SCO. In other words, you are essentially evaluating ARC versus PLC + SCO. Even if PLC is not expected to trigger, you may still choose to elect it and purchase SCO, particularly if the value of SCO is expected to exceed that of ARC.

For cotton producers, we continue recommending that you first evaluate the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) before making decisions about ARC/PLC. In the case of cotton, STAX cannot be purchased on any farm where the seed cotton base has been enrolled in ARC or PLC for that crop year. As we will discuss at the Red River Crops Conference in Altus, OK, later today, in a scenario where the crop is a total loss, the area-wide policies can provide considerably more coverage than ARC. For example, as noted in the example for Jackson County, OK, in Table 1, STAX can provide more than twice as much support as ARC in a total loss scenario.

As always, we aren’t in the business of telling you exactly what to do, because, frankly, we don’t know what will end up being the best choice. But, as with previous years, we do have a decision aid available at www.afpc.tamu.edu where you can input your info, and it will show you expected payments under as many different price scenarios as you want to look at.

The High Plains comparison chart is provided by PCG Director of Policy Analysis and Research Shawn Wade.

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Upcoming Events

Top of Texas Ag Conference
Date: January 23, 2024
Location: M.K. Brown

Plains Cotton Growers Inc. Board of Directors Meeting
Date: January 24, 2024
Location: FiberMax Center for Discovery

Texas Alliance for Water Conservation 10th Annual Water College
Date: January 24, 2024
Location: Lubbock Memorial Civic Center

Dumas Panhandle Crops Conference
Date: January 25, 2024
Location: Moore Co. Community Building

For a full list of upcoming events, see the Events Page.

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West Texas Cotton Quality Report for the 2023 Season

2023 Cotton Quality Report

This is a weekly summary of the cotton classed at the Lubbock and Lamesa USDA Cotton Division Cotton Classing Offices for the 2023 production season.

Lamesa’s average daily number of cotton samples received this week is 1,087. The office is currently 100% complete in the classing of their season estimate of samples.

Lubbock’s average daily number of cotton samples received this week is 1,492. The office is 99% complete in the classing of their season estimate of samples.

This week’s quality reports:

Lamesa

Lubbock

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The Details Behind the 2022 Emergency Relief Program

If you haven’t read PCG CEO Kody Bessent’s take on the new 2022 Emergency Relief Program, click here.

DATES: Funding availability: Application period for Track 1 will begin October 31, 2023. Application period for Track 2 will begin October 31, 2023. Contact your local FSA office for instructions on how to apply for Track 2 — FSA will be mailing out pre-filled applications for Track 1. You may still apply for Track 1 if you do not receive a pre-filled application.

COMMENTS: The U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency will consider comments received by January 2, 2024.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by the following method: Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to https://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID FSA–2023–0020.

You may also send comments to the Desk Officer for Agriculture, Office of the Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, Washington, DC 20503. Comments will be available for public inspection online at https://www.regulations.gov.

Track Overview

Track 1 will provide a streamlined application process for eligible crop and tree losses during the 2022 or 2023 crop years for which a producer had:

-A Federal crop insurance policy that provided coverage for crop production losses or tree losses related to the qualifying disaster events and received an indemnity for a crop and unit, excluding:

  • crops with an intended use of grazing,
  • livestock policies,
  • forage seeding,
  • Margin Protection Plan policies purchased without a base policy,
  • banana plants insured under the Hawaii Tropical Trees provisions, and
  • policies issued in Puerto Rico; or

-NAP coverage and received a NAP payment for a crop and unit, excluding crops with an intended use of grazing. The applicable Federal crop insurance policies and NAP provide payments to producers for crop and tree losses due to eligible causes of loss, as defined in the producer’s Federal crop insurance policy or NAP regulations and basic provisions. RMA and FSA are using data submitted by producers for Federal crop insurance or NAP purposes to calculate a producer’s eligible loss under Track 1. The Track 1 payment calculation is intended to compensate eligible crop and tree producers for a percentage of that loss determined by the applicable ERP factor, which varies based on the producer’s level of Federal crop insurance or NAP coverage.

Track 2 will provide assistance for eligible revenue, production, and quality losses of eligible crops not included in Track 1 — similar to Phase 2 of the previous ERP program. FSA has determined that the best estimation of such losses is a producer’s decrease in disaster year revenue compared to a benchmark year revenue, where benchmark year revenue represents a producer’s revenue prior to the impact of the qualifying disaster event.

Payment Factoring

According to the notice issued by USDA, progressive factoring will be used to calculate payments. See figure 1.

Figure 1 (click on image to download)

The basic examples used by the notice break down how payments will be calculated.

For example, to apply progressive factoring to a calculated loss (after subtraction of indemnities) of $5,000, FSA would multiply:

  • the first $2,000 by a factor of 100 percent ($2,000 × 100% = $2,000),
  • the second $2,000 by a factor of 80 percent ($2,000 × 80% = $1,600), and
  • the remaining $1,000 by a factor of 60 percent ($1,000 × 60% = $600).

The sum of those calculations is $4,200, which is the calculated ERP 2022 payment after progressive factoring.

For another example, to apply progressive factoring to a calculated loss (after subtraction of indemnities) of $430,000, FSA would multiply:

  • the first $2,000 by a factor of 100 percent ($2,000 × 100% = $2,000),
  • the second $2,000 by a factor of 80 percent ($2,000 × 80% = $1,600),
  • the third $2,000 by a factor of 60 percent ($2,000 × 60% = $1,200),
  • the fourth $2,000 by a factor of 40 percent ($2,000 × 40% = $800),
  • the fifth $2,000 by a factor of 20% ($2,000 × 20% = $400), and
  • the remaining $420,000 by a factor of 10 percent ($420,000 × 10% = $42,000).

The sum of those calculations is $48,000, which is the calculated ERP 2022 payment after progressive factoring.

For underserved producers, the producer’s share of the Federal crop insurance administrative fee and premium will be added to the resulting sum.

For all eligible crop producers, FSA will then apply a final payment factor of 75 percent, resulting in the producer’s calculated Track 1 payment. So in the example above, the $48,000 calculation will be factored by 75% resulting in a payment of $36,000 to the producer. We’ve provided visual aids below, which are available for download.

Click on the image to download.

Click on the image to download.

2023 Seed Cost Calculator Now Available

The 2023 version of the Plains Cotton Growers Inc. Seed Cost Calculator is available for download on the PCG website at the bottom of the “Resources” page. 

The PCG seed cost calculator is an interactive Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that allows producers to calculate an estimated cost per acre, for both seed and technology, based on published suggested retail prices.

Questions about the tool can be directed to Shawn Wade. 

Download the report here.