South Texas cotton producers dodge heavy damage from Emily
By The Associated Press
Texas, the nation's leading cotton-producing state, is on track for a good crop this year, although yields may not match last year's record 7.8 million bales. A strong hurricane could have stripped bolls from cotton plants, diminishing yields.|
"Compared to what we were thinking, we're tickled," Harlingen cotton farmer Sam Simmons said Wednesday. "We managed to dodge a bullet."
Although wind gusts as high as 50 mph hit Harlingen, any crop damage will come from heavy rain, said Webb Wallace, executive director of Cotton and Grain Producers of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, which serves a four-county region. The quality of a cotton boll's fiber suffers under heavy rain, he said.
Farther inland, Emily brought rain and occasional gusty winds as storm bands crossed South Texas.
"Since we are in the middle of harvest, we'd prefer hot, dry weather," said Jeff Nunley, executive director of the South Texas Cotton and Grain Association. "If we could have gotten these rains back in June, they would have been very timely."
Even before Emily, dryland cotton -- a variety of cotton that makes up about 60 percent of the region's 180,000 acres of cotton -- already suffered from a lack of timely rainfall and was destined to be a "mediocre to poor" crop, Wallace said.
"This rain certainly's going to hurt, and there may not be enough left to make it harvestable," he said of the dryland variety. Only 10 percent of the dryland had been harvested when Emily hit.
Irrigated cotton also sustained damage, but its leaves protect the cotton boll better than dryland plants. "I think most of it will not be damaged beyond harvesting," Wallace said.
Typically, a hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast is good news for producers of the fluffy fiber on the South Plains. But the National Weather Service in Lubbock said the world's largest cotton producing region will not get any rainfall from Emily.
"We don't expect it to affect us whatsoever," meteorologist Justin Weaver said.
Rain from Emily and her predecessor, Dennis, which hit the Alabama-Florida coast earlier this month, might benefit growers worldwide by boosting the price of cotton, said Roger Haldenby, spokesman for the Plains Cotton Growers, which serves a 41-county region in West Texas.
The storms could "substantially change" the number of bales produced this year, he said.
"It'll be a few weeks before that damage can be estimated where it might affect the world price of cotton for the 2005 crop," Haldenby said. "In the meantime, I'm sure the market will respond with more of a knee-jerk reaction in the short term."
On Wednesday, the cash price for cotton was about 46 cents per pound. December futures were trading at about 50 cents per pound.
©Madison Daily Leader 2013
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