Big cotton is in the harvest cards, according to USDA’s latest report. Low commodity prices for corn, grain sorghum and soybeans pulled in more cotton acreage in 2017, and the numbers are reflected in USDA’s latest estimates.
With yields projected at 892 lb. per acre, up 25 lb. from 2016, the overall forecast calls for 20.5 million bales across the Cotton Belt, with Upland accounting for 19.5 million bales and Pima totaling 770,000 bales. If USDA projections hold, the 2017 U.S. cotton crop could be the largest in over a decade.
As always, Texas dwarfs all other cotton-producing states, with roughly 5.7 million Upland acres planted and an estimated 8.8 million bales set for harvest. Fourth-generation producer Charles Ring farms in Sinton in south Texas, and says his harvest is showing strong cotton: "This year the timing of rainfall was good and so our crops have been good. So far they're shaping up to be awfully good."
Ring has already harvested some 2.5- to 2.75-bale dryland cotton and has yet to pick his irrigated ground. "Cotton is looking good and the quality is good because we haven't had rain since the bolls opened. So we're in good shape,” he says.
Bobby Rieder, also of Sinton, believes 2017 is shaping up as one of his better cotton years. For the past decade, Rieder has been involved with San Patricio County test plots and says 2017 yields were 2.25- to 2.5-bale cotton. Some of his neighbors had near-perfect timing on rain and are at 3-bale cotton or even better.
Rieder says he was fortunate to sell at 75 cents: "Unfortunately, cotton is an expensive crop to raise and you need to make a bale to a bale and a half just to break even on your expenses,” he explains. “When you get 3-bale cotton you can start doing quite well."
Like Ring and Sinton, Bobby Nedbalek also produces in San Patricio County. He says 2017 has been a year of ideal rain patterns that have essentially allowed growers to try to beat the market.
“You have to out-yield the market and that's not a healthy thing to see because we should we should be getting ahead this year … We really need to do some catch-up because we've had some years when things haven't been profitable,” Nedbalek explains. “We've got so much debt now with the cost of inputs."