Last year proved a solid one for nearly all cotton farmers except those in Texas and Oklahoma.
While states in the South and West registered overall harvest rates of 97 percent or better, Texas farmers lost 40 percent of their crop, more than 2.5 million acres, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
Oklahoma growers planted a smaller amount of cotton than their counterparts in Texas, but lost nearly half their crop, hurt by drought conditions that hit the region.
Overall last year, 12.3 million acres of cotton were planted in the US, and 9.4 million acres were harvested, according to the USDA.
Texas farmers planted more than 6.5 million acres of cotton but were only able to harvest 3.9 million acres. And the yield was just 600 pounds per acre in the Lone Star State, off from the five-year average of 700 pounds.
In Oklahoma growers planted 305,000 acres but only harvested 140,000 acres. Yield per harvested acre was just 480 pounds, down from a five-year state average of 770 pounds.
The 2012 cotton season overall hasn’t been anything to brag about, but it’s also been nothing to weep over.
While the jury is still out on cotton for this year, from all reports the crop will be good but not spectacular, according to Southeast Farm Press.
The Southeast enjoyed good growing conditions for much of the year, and Texas rebounded nicely from last year’s disaster. However, heat and drought impacted other cotton-growing areas such as Oklahoma.
Production costs have continued to rise, however, and uncertainty in world stocks has kept prices down.
In Texas, the nation’s largest cotton-growing state, the US Department of Agriculture is predicting that the 2012 cotton crop will total 6.1 million bales, a 74 percent increase over 2011, according to the San Angelo Standard-Times.
More than 350,000 acres of Texas farmland was planted in cotton in 2011, but only 18,000 acres were harvested as the state experienced its worst one-year drought since 1895.
Projected cotton acreage in Texas – the nation’s largest cotton-growing state – could be down by as much as 20 percent in the near future, experts claim.
The enduring drought that has ravaged the Midwest has resulted in increased grain prices, and that could provide the impetus for Texas farmers to move more of their land out of cotton, which has been bringing a mediocre return, according to Southeast Farm Press.
One Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist told the publication he has heard stories about high sorghum prices that could prove tempting to many growers in the coming year.
John Robinson, an AgriLife Extension cotton economist in College Station, said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Texas’ cotton acreage drop down 20 percent, to about 5 million cotton acres next year.
Texas leads the US in cotton production and annually produces about 25 percent of the nation’s entire crop, according to the Texas A&M University cotton growing program.
Researchers in Texas are freeze-drying the remains of French ship that, when it sank more than 320 years ago, ultimately altered the course of North American history.
The La Belle was captained by Rene-Robert Cavelier Sieur de La Salle, who had hoped to colonize Texas for France.
When the 54-1/2-foot vessel foundered in 1686 in a storm on Matagorda Bay, about midway between Galveston and Corpus Christi, La Salle’s colony was fated for oblivion.
“When La Belle sank, that doomed La Salle’s colony and opened up the door for Spain to come in and occupy Texas,” said Jim Bruseth, who led the Texas Historical Commission effort to recover the remains.
By placing the ship in a constant environment of up to 60 degrees below zero, more than 300 years of moisture will be safely removed from hundreds of European oak and pine timbers and planks, according to The Telegraph.
The operation, taking place at the old Bryan Air Force base several miles northwest of College Station, Texas, is the first such undertaking of its size.
Cotton projections took a significant hit over the past couple of weeks, as analysts dropped US crop estimates to 15.8 million bales, from 17 million bales recently forecasted by the US Department of Agriculture.
Speaking July 27 at the Ag Market Network’s annual Cotton Roundtable in New York, forecasters pointed to drought conditions in Texas as a key factor behind the 7 percent drop from USDA projections made on July 11.
Surprisingly, while this year’s Texas crop is still struggling under the grip of an extended drought, it’s doing better than last year’s 3.5 million-bale crop, in which 62 percent of the acreage was abandoned, according to Southeast Farm Press.
Moderate to severe drought conditions have existed for more than a year in Texas, said Carl Anderson, extension specialist emeritus at Texas A&M University.
“During the first half of 2012, rainfall across most cotton areas in Texas totaled less than 2 inches,” he said. “However, there have been some localized rains that benefited both irrigated fields and some dryland areas.”
Texas is the nation leading cotton-growing state.
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.
Last year was one of the best on record for cotton growers, but things aren’t shaping up nearly so well in 2011.
Drought conditions across much of the South is hindering growing conditions and will almost assuredly hurt US cotton yield this year.
For example, 36 percent of the cotton crop in Texas – where about half of the US cotton growing area is located – is rated very poor; 23 percent poor; 30 percent fair; and only 11 percent good, according to Carl Anderson, a cotton marketing expert and professor emeritus with Texas A&M.
A rare Revolutionary War-era pamphlet that criticizes Great Britain for taxing its American colonies without their consent has been discovered in a Texas college library.
Austin College archivist Justin Banks found an original copy of an essay written by Cambridge History professor John Symonds titled “Remarks Upon an Essay Intituled The History of the Colonization of the Free States of Antiquity, Applied to the Present Contest Between Great Britain and her American Colonies.”
It was printed in London in 1778, three years after the beginning of the American Revolution.
The pamphlet was donated to the college more than 20 years ago and there are only 100 known copies, one of which was found in Thomas Jefferson’s personal library.