LUBBOCK, TX - More than just a job, cotton farming across the South Plains is a livelihood for some families, but its economic impact goes well beyond the farmers themselves.
"We don't think about it on a daily basis, if we live in town, we live in Lubbock and we're not connected to it, but obviously all of the state's economic output supports jobs. It supports the purchases, and the other economic activity that goes on," said Dr. Darren Hudson, Larry Combest Endowed Chair for Agricultural Competitiveness and director of the International Center for Agricultural Competitiveness at Texas Tech University.
Depending on the year and yield, Dr. Hudson explained west Texas makes up to 75 to 80% of the Texas cotton crop, and that the Texas cotton crops makes up anywhere between 35 to 50% of the U.S. crop. Last year, Lubbock County was the largest cotton producing county in the U.S.
"The regional economy we think is somewhere around generally around 35 to 40 billion dollars a year in regional economic output, about 25 to 35 percent of that is agriculture and of course the big player is cotton in our region on that. So, cotton plays a really important role, we're talking a quarter of the economic output in the region is directly related to cotton," said Dr. Hudson, who also explained that much of the Lubbock economy will feel the effects of when farmers have a "good" season versus a "bad" season.
"Car sales change, and just the regional economic activity changes, like tourism and other kinds of things, even attendees at football games," said Hudson.
The products made from the cotton locally grown will travel the world, but what it all comes down to is a solid homegrown foundation found right here across the South Plains.
Third-generation farmer Mike Patschke says his family has been farming in west Texas since the fifties, but before that, his grandfather began farming in central Texas back in the thirties.
"I have the fourth and fifth upcoming generations coming up, and hopefully we'll still be around to see that in the next 30 years," said Patschke. "I feel like it's the best life in this area to be out on a farm and raise your children with the crops and the cattle."
Patschske shared that the recent rainy weather in the area has been slowing things down on his farm, especially since it's near harvest time leaving the majority of the cotton bolls still closed up.
"It's not fully mature, we need the sunshine to fully develop this cotton out," explained Patschke, who despite the minor delay is remaining positive.
"There's never a dull moment in the farmer's life. You get up and you never know what to expect. The weather changes daily, and if it's not up to your liking, wait another day or two, it will change."
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