Cotton growers optimistic

Cotton stands in a field beside the Parmer County Cotton Grower’s cotton gin waiting to be processed. Cotton yields have already shown an increase over last year’s production. (Staff photo: Sharna Johnson)

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

Spurred by a September heat wave, cotton production in the Texas High Plains is expected to surpass last year’s record harvest, according to Department of Agriculture.

James Shepard, manager of the West Camp Gin outside of Muleshoe, said the area still needs a “good, hard freeze” before the harvest will be in full swing. Still, the early results are promising. Shepard said he’s seeing yields of 1 1/4 bales per acre for dryland cotton and in the two- to three-bale range for irrigated.

“With all the varieties we have now, it really has improved the yields,” said Shepard, who has been at the West Camp Gin 15 years. “We had a hot September, which with all the early moisture we had, was really good for the dryland cotton.”

Meanwhile, the Parmer County Cotton Growers gin expects to process 40,000 bales of cotton in 2005, according to gin manager Randy Mitchell.

“We usually average around 35,000, so this should be a good year,” Mitchell said. The hot weather the area experienced over the last few months created perfect conditions to grow a good grade of cotton, Mitchell said.

In fact, the USDA revised its forecast in October — by 51 pounds an acre in Bailey County and 18 pounds in Parmer County — to account for the weather.

The USDA is predicting a staggering 5.245 million bales of cotton in the Texas High Plains in 2005.

The only downside to this year’s harvest is the cost of diesel fuel, which is 44 percent higher than last year, Mitchell said. The harvesting equipment along with the trucks required to haul the cotton to gin are diesel powered. Mitchell said the gin would see significant monetary losses due to “the energies.”

“It’s not just the price of diesel,” Mitchell said. “Natural gas and electricity are high, too.”

Texas is the leading cotton-producing state and is averages 4.5 million bales of cotton annually, according to the National Cotton Council. United States textile mills will spin into almost 10 million bales of cotton this year, which is enough to make three billion pairs of jeans and eight billion men’s dress shirts.

According to www.cotton.org, about two-thirds of the harvested crop is composed of seed. The seeds are crushed and divided into three products — oil, meal and hulls. Cottonseed oil is a common ingredient in many food items and can be used to manufacture biodiesel fuel. The meal and hulls are used as livestock, poultry and fish feed. It is also commonly used as fertilizer.