Cotton growers struggle to get grades amid cotton classing office backlog

Local News

LUBBOCK, Texas — Cotton prices across the nation are some of the highest seen since 2014 and many growers on the South Plains also saw a great season.

“This really has been a very unique year and one for the records,” said CEO of Plains Cotton Growers, Kody Bessent.

While harvesting went off without a hitch, some growers have now hit a snag when it comes to selling their cotton.

“There’s been a backlog at all classing offices across the us and we are certainly feeling the pressure of that and experiencing that here,” said Bessent.

That backlog at the cotton classing offices means growers are finding it difficult to get their cotton graded. To make the most of their cotton harvest, each cotton bale produced must be graded by a cotton classing office on criteria like color, strength and cleanliness.

But with this backlog, sometimes being as long as 13 days, it means some growers are having to wait longer to get their grades and are unable to take advantage of selling it on the open market when prices are so high.

According to Bessent, there are several reasons for this backlog.

“The cotton come off very quickly this year and just as many industries are experiencing, there is a shortage in equipment and parts to be able to to provide maintenance and service,” said Bessent. “Another big factor that’s causing some of the backlog is a shortage in labor and workforce.”

But Bessent said there is still some hope for growers finding it difficult to get their grade.

“There are some tools and strategies that can be used at a cost. There certainly is some challenges to it. Cotton can still be contracted and they can also take advantage of of a seed cotton marketing loan. [That] allows for some cash flow for producers to finish out the season and pay bills. Then, at a later date when they receive their grade and sell it, they can repay that loan,” said Bessent.

However, Bessent is still hopeful that soon the classing offices will get back to a more normal rate of employment and ultimately solve this problem.

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