Cotton farmers from Corpus Christi, Texas, to southern Kansas have battled heavy rains that have either delayed or prevented planting altogether. However, the extra soil moisture in non-irrigated fields likely will boost yields for those able to get their crop planted prior to their insurance cut-off dates.
According to USDA’s Crop Progress report, U.S. cotton planting at the end of May was only 61% complete, compared with the five-year average of 78%. Planting in several states has been significantly delayed due to heavy rains. For instance, Texas cotton planting was only 46% completed, compared with its five-year average of 70%, and Oklahoma was only 29% done, compared with an average of 50%.
“Producers in the Corpus Christi area could not get cotton in. It was just too wet to plant,” said John Robinson, cotton economist with Texas A&M University. “That has never happened before. It has been too dry to plant, but it has never been too wet.”
The rest of the Gulf Coast cotton-growing region of Texas was also too wet to plant for many producers. Robinson estimate that as many as 200,000 to 300,000 acres in the entire South Texas cotton-growing region likely did not get planted to cotton this year. Central Texas, from Dallas to Austin, where less cotton is grown, was also too wet to plant in many cases.
However, producers in the state’s largest cotton-growing region of West Texas likely will get all of their cotton planted, said Robinson. And producers north of Texas in Arkansas and Missouri, where spring rains have also been heavy, are now getting a chance to plant.
“Moisture will ultimately be a good thing for the crop,” said Robinson. “My guess is that the extra bales that come out of West Texas will make up for the bales that won’t be produced in South Texas. In other words, I think we will have as many or more bales made because of the moisture.”
According to USDA’s Prospective Plantings report released in late March, 13% fewer acres are expected to be planted to cotton this year. Last year, producers planted 10.845 million acres to cotton, compared with a projected 9.55 million acres this year.
Robinson said he expects USDA to reduce its cotton acreage projection in its annual Acreage report, released June 30, but that the production numbers could be close to unchanged.
Cotton prices are low enough that without good yields, many cotton producers will not turn a profit, said Robinson. Since Thanksgiving, cotton futures have been trading in a range, between 62 cents and 67 cents.
“I don’t know what will move them out of that trading range. Eventually something will, but I don’t know what that is,” said Robinson. “New-crop cotton futures will continue to trade in the 62- to 67-cent range, or maybe between 60 and 70 cents.”
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