High cotton yield offset by low prices, local farmers say

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 1, 2002

Features Editor

High cotton yield offset by low prices, local farmers say

About 95 percent of this year’s cotton has been harvested and officials say Alabama is still on track for the biggest crop in years.

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The state’s cotton growers planted 610,000 acres and are expected to harvest 605,000 acres.

The Alabama Agricultural Statistical Service predicts a harvest of 890,000 bales or 706 pounds of lint per acre by year’s end.

"All the crops really have been good to excellent as far as yields," said John Dasher, agricultural statistician with the service. "I don’t think anyone can complain."

All of that sounds good – unless you’re a cotton farmer.

Jeffrey Warrick, who farms 1,200 acres of cotton with Larry Rhodes, said across the country cotton production is expected to be high – about 20 million bales. And, it’s true that he, too, can’t complain about this year’s yield.

"Our yield was good – about 650 to 700 pounds per acre – but cotton was bringing only 30 cents a pound and that just doesn’t add up," Warrick said. "Last year was a drought year and we made about 250 to 275 pounds an acre, but we got 67 cents a pound. With crop insurance, we survived. But, the price this year just hasn’t been good. Really, it’s been terrible. We made enough to pay expenses and make equipment payments, but that’s about it."

Warrick said the saving grace for the cotton farmer this year has been the loan rate of 51.9 cents per pound.

"The loan rate is a government deficiency payment, a price support, I guess you could say, for

when the

price is low and it helps a lot," Warrick said. "To make any money in cotton we need 65 to 67 cents a pound for our commodity. This year we had the biggest cotton crop in years, but the money wasn’t there."

Warrick said he is hoping for a new farm bill that will be favorable to the cotton farmer.

"Our two senators, (Richard) Shelby and (Jeff) Sessions, voted against the farm bill, but it’s scheduled to come back up Jan. 24," Warrick said. "From what I understand, the bill leaves the loan rate at 51.9 cents but also includes payment for bad years. We need something that will help us stay in business."