Farmers say area cotton crop booming

Freedom New Mexico: Argen Duncan Floyd farmer Allen Deen shows dryland cotton plants in his field along N.M. 267. This year is his first to grow cotton in 31 years of farming, and he said the crop and price look like they will be excellent.

Argen Duncan

Roosevelt and Curry counties have much more cotton than normal this year, and the crop is shaping up to be excellent, people in local agriculture say.

Roosevelt County has 75 percent more cotton than normal this year, said Floyd farmer Allen Deen.

Kenny Whitecotton of Strippers Custom Harvesting estimated 5,000-6,000 acres in the Roosevelt County had cotton, and Curry County was up 50 percent to 75 percent in cotton acreage as well.

Roosevelt County Extension Agent Patrick Kircher said high projections for cotton prices and low prices for other agricultural commodities led area farmers to take a chance on cotton.

Deen, who is growing both dryland and irrigated cotton, said contracts for planting the crop were favorable to farmers. He said he has never grown cotton before and his father, who also farms in the area, hasn’t planted cotton since 1975.

“This year we’re going to be way over our yields, more than we could even imagine,” Deen said.

He said the abundant moisture early in the season and following hot, dry weather were perfect for cotton.

“We’ve had an excellent fall for cotton,” Deen said. “It wants hot weather.”

Whitecotton said the cotton crop looks to be the best in 10 years for both Roosevelt and Curry County.

Wednesday morning, Deen said, the price of cotton was $1.02 per pound, double the normal amount. Whitecotton said the price isn’t dropping just before harvest as it normally does.

“Actually it’s climbing,” he said.

Whitecotton expects most area farmers to wait to harvest until after the first freeze in a month or so, although some may use a chemical to remove the plants’ leaves and then harvest early.

Colin Chandler, who harvests cotton with Whitecotton, said he thought the prices would hold through the cotton stripping after the freeze.

Because flooding hurt the cotton crop along the Mississippi River, Whitecotton said, the market needs southeastern New Mexico cotton to meet the demand, leading to the high prices. Cotton gin managers knew they would need cotton, so they offered incentive contracts with good guaranteed prices, he said.

Whitecotton said gins haven’t offered incentive prices in a long time.

If cotton prices hold, Deen said, irrigation farmers may switch corn acreage to cotton next year.