Cotton producers across the South Plains are beginning this season’s harvest. While cotton gins in the region and Texas A&M Agrilife Extension agents reported a few farmers harvesting last week, more are kicking off the harvest now that the moisture from last week’s rain has dried off.
EverythingLubbock.com spent the day with two South Plains cotton farmers who were both in the second day of their harvest this year: Dahlen Hancock and LLoyd Arthur.
Hancock farms near Tahoka and Ropesville, Arthur farms between Lorenzo and Ralls. Both have been farming for over 35 years, both come from families that have farmed for generations.
Both spent the day Tuesday getting into the rhythm of the harvest. Arthur explained that after spending so much time harvesting, he knows the machine like an old friend.
“You can kind of feel it in your bones, how the machine is running, sometimes I can detect something’s wrong before a buzzer or something goes off,” he said.
Both Arthur and Hancock had hoped to begin harvesting last week, but were delayed by the rains. The warm weather over the weekend has dried out the moisture in the ground, leaving ideal conditions for harvest.
Arthur explained that his profession is at the mercy of Mother Nature, and this year, Mother Nature has been relatively good to the cotton farmers. According to Plains Cotton Growers, if the good weather continues, South Plains cotton farmers will be on track to have the largest cotton crop since 2010.
“This year we had rain early and that was a good thing, but then it didn’t rain in the latter part of July and the first part of August,” Hancock exlained. But things improved for famers as summer progressed. “We got some late rains in August that kind of helped finish off the irrgiation in a good way,” Hancock added. He said that the weather this year was very welcome after the past five years of drought conditions.
“My granddady always said: do differently from what you did last year because there’s no two years the same,”Arthur explained.
This year the cotton crop for these farmers also appears to be of a higher quality.
“It looks like it could be one of our best crops in the last five years, we’re excited about it,” Hancock said.
“Last year we had decent yields and last year we had poor quality, we had real bad quality issues and this year it’s looking like we have overcome the biggest part of those,” Arthur explained. “I think that’s something farmers are looking to see, that our quality will be much better.”
While the weather conditions helped their business, these farmers explained that concerns over cotton prices still loom.
“You could have a good crop, you could have good yields, but if you don’t have [ good] price it’s all for naught, right now we’re struggling with prices that we’ve seen in the last four to five years,”
Plains Cotton Growers explained to EverythingLubbock.com Tuesday that while cotton prices have improved since January, they are still lower than what’s desirable for producers.
“Demand is still a big problem world wide, we’re growing our cotton for the world market, so we’re always looking to see what’s happening in the other parts of the world,” Arthur explained.
While they watch global markets, they are also racing to get as much quality cotton harvested as possible.
“It’s a stressful time because you’re putting in a lot of hours and because once that plant opens, it’s not ever gonna be any better than the day that it’s ready,” said Hancock.
“It’ll get long, and by the time we’re finished, everyone will be glad when we get to the last row,” he said.
The cotton harvesting will continue for 50 to 60 days, Arthur said, with workers putting in time from morning until nighttime.
As the harvesting continues, the farmers encourage the public to give plenty of space to their machinery.
“There are a lot of tractors moving down the roads, I hope the general public– just as they’re out on a normal day, that they will be cautious and help look out for that big machinery, it can be hard for those guys to see some things,” Hancock said.