Among my myriad flaws is that I’m an animal lover.
Why, might you ask, is this an issue? Am I a male equivalent of “cat lady?” Are packs of hounds roaming hither and thither across my furniture, foodstuffs and finery? Do I possess a weakness that impels me to rescue every abandoned kitten, puppy and wombat I come across?
My issue is that I like to catch animals – the wilder the better.
While I let them go afterwards, I am also of the belief that the inherent beauty of God’s glory is fully evident in each of His creatures, and how better to enjoy the Creator’s handiwork than to reach out and snare his beasts?
As a result, a wide range of His critters have left their mark on me.
Snakes, turtles, birds, lizards, rabbits and fish are among animals by which I’ve been bitten.
Poor prognostication skills by Indian agriculture experts could be good news for American cotton farmers.
Earlier this month, cotton prices jumped after India announced plans to ban all cotton exports.
India is believed to have opted for a cotton-export ban because the Asian nation is concerned about a possible supply crunch. According to government officials, India’s cotton exports may have overshot government targets last year, according to Southeast Farm Press.
A few days later, officials with the country’s commerce industry said they would allow cotton cleared by customs before March 4 to be exported, easing the situation somewhat, according to an Indian agriculture blog.
It’s unclear if the price surge will be long-lasting, according to Southeast Farm Press.
“We’ll probably continue to see higher prices in the short-term,” Max Runge, Auburn University Extension economist told the publication. “But I don’t think we can count on any long-term effects.
Short answer “yes” with an “if,” long answer “no” with a “but.”
Seriously, Person points out that there is no simple answer to the question, other than at present it’s best not to try eating cotton or cottonseed. (Cotton candy doesn’t count.)
Of course, the agriculture industry has long made use of cotton byproducts for things other than simply using the cotton fibers for textiles.
Cottonseed is used to produce cottonseed oil, which, after refining, can be consumed by humans like any other vegetable oil. Also, cottonseed meal left over after processing can be fed to some livestock and cottonseed hulls can be added to dairy cattle rations for roughage.
But the main problem that keeps cottonseed from being a food source for humans is a natural chemical produced by cotton plants called gossypol.
Organic cotton continued a nearly decade-long growth trend in 2011, with approximately 16,000 acres planted, according to the Organic Trade Association.
That was up sharply from 2010, when nearly 12,000 acres of organic cotton were planted.
Last year’s total represented the largest number of acres planted since 1999, according to the 2010 and Preliminary 2011 US Organic Cotton Production & Marketing Trends report conducted by the OTA.
However, harvested acres and bales are expected to be down by 38 and 45 percent, respectively, due to a devastating drought in the Southern Plains, according to Southeast Farm Press.
Extremely dry conditions in Texas forced farmers there to abandon more than 65 percent of their planted crop in 2011, the publication added.
A modest acreage gain of two percent is forecast for 2012, bringing plantings of US organic cotton to 16,406 acres.
Organic cotton is cotton grown from non-genetically modified plants without the use of fertilizers or pesticides.
Nine months ago, cotton was sitting pretty at an all-time high price of $2.197 a pound; today, it’s down to 90 cents a pound and could decline another 15 percent by the end of next year.
The cause for the precipitous drop is the combination of a record crop and falling consumption, which is expanding global stockpiles to levels unseen in more than half a decade, according to Bloomberg.
Harvests are projected to increase 7.5 percent to nearly 124 million bales (27 million metric tons) in the 12 months ending in July, while demand drops to a three-year low of 114 million bales, the US Department of Agriculture estimates.
Although the price has dropped, it has exceeded 85 cents for most of the last year. That’s above the 75-cent range considered the break-even point for profits for many US growers, according to the (Memphis) Commercial Appeal.
“Bid up by demand abroad, cotton reached the highest price in March in 140 years of official records,” according to the publication. “The run-up hasn’t showered cash on all farms, however. When prices began rising a year ago, many growers locked in sales contracts for their crop, missing the March peak.”
The crop perhaps most associated with the South is the subject of a Farm Press photo contest that will run through Nov. 1.
Farm Press, which publishes Southeast Farm Press among other publications, is looking for the best photo that reminds readers of cotton’s picturesque beauty.
Cotton is “as much a part of Southern farm culture as Spanish moss on live oaks, azaleas in April and sliced watermelon on a hot summer evening,” Slate Canon writes in the Farm Press Blog. “Snow-white fields ready for harvest hold promise of a good return for hard work and perseverance.
“And from the time the first seedling pushes through the soil, to first bloom, to boll fill and finally to the massive pickers marching through fields leaving brown swaths in the white landscape, a cotton crop is a work of art,” she adds.
Indeed, there are few things more Southern that zipping through a rural county in the late afternoon and coming over a hill upon a field of cotton so full that it looks as though a freak storm dumped a couple of inches of snow on the landscape. Or seeing wisps of cotton blowing across a country highway, catching on nearby stalks of dried corn or piling up in ditches.
California cotton growers are facing a fungus that could not only lay waste to their livelihood, but impact other parts of the Cotton Belt, as well.
An insidious soil fungus known as Fusarium Race 4, or Race 4 for short, is threatening the ability of cotton farmers in the Golden State’s San Joaquin Valley to continue to expand, according to Western Farm Press.
“This particular race has been around awhile, but with the expanded cotton acreage this season it has been found in far more areas than ever before,” according to the publication.
Race 4 has been identified in all six San Joaquin Valley cotton-producing counties in more than 200 total locations.
“Although not as menacing elsewhere, it also poses a threat to the rest of the US Cotton Belt and could have an impact on California as a source of premium cotton planting seed for varieties to be sold throughout the US and the world,” Western Farm Press added.
Rebecca Sharpless’s book Fertile Ground, Narrow Choices: Women on Texas Cotton Farms, 1900-1940 delves into a little explored aspect of 20th century culture – what life was like for the average Southerner – with far more depth than any high school history textbook or PBS program could hope for.
What might at first seem a dry, academic topic is, in reality, the story of the South for the vast multitude of individuals who lived their lives below the Mason-Dixon line up until the start of World War II, and beyond.
Rural women, according to Sharpless, a professor at Texas Christian University, comprised the largest part of the adult population of Texas until 1940 and in the American South until 1960.
On the cotton farms of Central Texas, women’s labor was essential. In addition to working untold hours in the fields, women shouldered most family responsibilities, including raising the kids, cooking food, keeping house and raising vegetables and fruit to feed the family, Sharpless writes.
While Texas cotton farmers appear set to abandon record levels of acreage this year due to drought, it appears there will be plenty of cotton in the Upper Southeast this year.
“With a record crop planted and only a few timely showers needed to finish the crop, cotton could be more than plentiful in the region,” according to Southeast Farm Press.
Until recently, the volume of cotton in the Upper Southeast has been on a downward trend, in large part due to reduced acreage, but also because of weather-related yield reductions, according to the publication.
The Southeast as a whole is forecast to be the largest production region in the nation this season, a first in more than four decades, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
The US Department of Agriculture’s rosy prediction for US cotton production is raising eyebrows, particularly given drought conditions that have hit much of the south this summer.
How bad are things in some areas? According to Bloomberg, “The worst Texas drought in more than a century has left cotton-crop conditions that rival the Dust Bowl of the early 1930s, forcing farmers to abandon more fields than ever before.”
Several market analysts were puzzled by the USDA’s Aug. 11 crop report, which projected a 550,000-bale increase in US cotton production, despite a Texas crop which appears to have been severely compromised by record drought and heat this season, according to Southeast Farm Press.
Accustomed to hot, dry weather, cotton is more resistant to drought than other crops. But in this summer of extremes, even it has a breaking point.