LUBBOCK, Texas – Droughts, disease and insects are all common threats to crops. Another issue that we don’t hear about much, but is a reality for some farmers on the South Plains currently is too much rain, which is keeping them from planting.

For the more central counties across the High Plains, the final planting deadline for cotton was June 5 to have crops covered by insurance. 

“Everybody’s waiting to see if we could get a rain, and when we finally got a rain, it kept raining,” said Keil Gauger, owner of Caprock Family Farms.

For many West Texas farmers, it’s typically the lack of rain that causes problems during planting season.

“Last year we didn’t have a crop,” Gauger said. “We couldn’t really get anything out of the ground, so we collected all of our insurance because it was so dry that we couldn’t get anything to germinate.”

This year’s problem was flooding and all of the rain came ahead of the final planting dates for crop insurance eligibility.

“Now we’re having problems planting because the rain continues and continues and the fields are wet,” Gauger said. “We haven’t had any drying weather to dry out the soil.”

We are less than a week into June and Lubbock has already received more rain than it did for the full month of June in 2022. 

“Some of these fields are very saturated and producers are having to wait before they can actually get back in to run those planters and finish those planning activities,” said Shawn Wade, director of policy analysis and research with Plains Cotton Growers. “Now, we’ve switched the table a little bit in that now we have producers who may actually be unable to plant because it’s too wet.”

That’s one of the many reasons Wade said crop insurance is of the utmost importance for farmers.

“Crop insurance is able to kind of give us that protection and say, hey, you’ve got the crop planted, but weather events caused some damage that was not able to be overcome,” Wade said.

Luckily, some like Gauger have already planted, but others may be having a hard time.

“Every day over June 5, you’re docked 1% on your federal crop insurance on your yield,” Gauger said. “After June 12, you can’t collect federal crop insurance on cotton. You have to move to another crop such as some type of grain, usually milo, and that way you can get federally insured through that crop.”

Wade said the weather is the number one factor in deciding how successful a growing season will be. Luckily, he said it can’t be worse than the drought farmers faced last year.

“We just have to play it by ear as a producer and take advantage of the sunny days that we get, even though they’re few and far between here.” 

For farmers who missed the deadline, not all hope is lost. Wade said there’s still a late planting deadline, which for Texas counties is seven days after the final planting date. During that week, producers can plant and still get a reduced amount of insurance coverage. They can also switch to a different crop, which commonly is a grain.

2023 Final Planting Dates for Cotton:

  • May 31: Northern counties across the South Plains
    • Armstrong, Bailey, Briscoe, Carson, Castro, Dallam, Deaf Smith, Gray, Hansford, Hartley, Hutchinson, Lamb, Lipscomb, Moore, Ochiltree, Oldham, Parmer, Potter, Randall, Roberts, Sherman and Swisher.
  • June 5: Central counties across the South Plains
    • Cochran, Crosby, Floyd, Gaines, Hale, Hockley, Lubbock, Terry and Yoakum.
  • June 10: Southern counties across the South Plains
    • Andrews, Borden, Dawson, Garza, Howard, Lynn, Martin and Midland.