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|Cotton quality, yield down|
In what should have been another high-octane growing season for Franklin Parish cotton producers, a number of factors have conspired to make 2008 a lackluster year for cotton.
Faye Montgomery, of Farmer's Cotton Co., said the problems with the 2008 crop started at the beginning of the growing season with the number of acres planted.
"There was less cotton planted to start with, from last year," Montgomery said. "We had a reduction in the planted acreage."
That reduction means fewer pounds of cotton in an ever-shrinking cotton market. When coupled with weather problems, the reduced acreage means hard times for the cotton industry.
Montgomery said even the weather never cooperated with cotton growers this year.
June and July were two of the driest months of the year, at a time when cotton crops were thirsty for water.
When the rains arrived in August, they damaged crops and further hindered yields — all before Hurricane Gustav flooded out the remaining crops.
All of those factors have combined to depress quality and output, said Carol Pinnell-Alison of the LSU AgCenter.
Last week, the AgCenter issued its monthly crop report, including an estimate that as much as 30 percent of cotton this year is lost to crop rot.
Pinnell-Alison said she believed the percentage of lost crops was even higher, when yields are considered year to year.
"I'm hearing anywhere from the low five-hundred pounds to maybe 700 pounds," Pinnell-Alison said. "To me, that's more than 30 percent loss over last year."
Last year's cotton crop produced an average of more than 1,000 pounds per acre — a bumper crop by any measure. However, when factored into the five-year average, Pinnell-Alison noted this year's 500-pound yields are still significantly down.
"It really depends on what you base that 30 percent on when we talk about the crop this year," Pinnell-Alison said.
Crop quality has also taken a hit, according to Farmer's Cotton.
Montgomery said she's seeing anywhere from three to seven cents off the insured price because of mites or grey spots.
"From my farmers I deal with, we're down a good bit," Montgomery said.
Jerry Johnson, of Johnson Cotton Co. agreed.
He said some producers he deals with have seen as much as a 50-percent loss in yield due to the storms and other factors, at a time when the farmers stood to make a significant profit due to high cotton futures.
"It's a big hit," Johnson said. "The thing about it is there are so many producers that have the cotton fixed at very high prices and they have no cotton to deliver."
Though Johnson called the 2008 crop the third "major disaster" he's seen, he still remained upbeat about the industry he's been in for forty years.
"The farmers will prevail," Johnson said. "They're the backbone of America, so they'll prevail."