Cutting back on cotton crops

The Texas Panhandle is cotton country and one of the nationâ??s largest cotton producers. But, due to the drought, many Panhandle farmers are having to cut back on their cotton acreage.

â??The winters havenâ??t been very favorable, we havenâ??t received any moisture from them, we havenâ??t received any moisture from the spring rainfall. Weâ??ve been forced to reduce our acres and some of us may not plant any at all if we continue to not see any rainfall,â?? said Paul Weinheimer, a local farmer in the Panhandle area.

The cotton crop is one of the areaâ??s most prevalent crops, and for the Weinheimer family, it is about 80% of their land and acreage. However, in the past four years, theyâ??ve steadily been decreasing the amount of cotton they plant and become more strategic about water usage and irrigation for the cotton they are still producing.

â??With the drought extending into its fourth year of extreme drought, heat, and wind, if we donâ??t see a change in this patter, we may not see any dry land cotton in this area,â?? said Weinheimer. â??Weâ??re forced to irrigate these fields and change our strategy where we make more timely applications and become more efficient with our water and conserve our groundwater because its become so precious.â??

Local agronomist for Crop Production Services, Rex Brandon, says some farmers are waiting for the long-awaited rainfall before they take a chance on planting their cotton crop this season.

â??Some people are waiting. I mean, if theyâ??re going to make a crop, theyâ??ve got to wait on the rain, otherwise itâ??s just a gamble. Right now weâ??re just dustinâ?? in the seat, and going to hope for a rain on our dry land market. If you want to play that game, you can gamble and hope it comes up,â?? said Brandon.

He says for some itâ??s a waiting game, and for others itâ??s a betting game when deciding how to handle the drought, this seeding season, and how many acres to plant for the crop. But, cotton is still one of the best choices for farmers in the Panhandle.

â??The time right now is to plant cotton right now. When you put the pencil to it, the cotton is probably the most profitable. I mean, markets right now, are right under a dollar for cotton, and if they donâ??t have enough water to grow corn, then cotton is the answer,â?? added Brandon.

Weinheimer said they are not at a point where it has been catastrophic for the industry, but that the decrease in cotton planted could affect production and potentially cotton product prices. He says a similar event occurred with Leviâ??s Jeans back in 2011, with a decrease in cotton production and a hike in their prices.

â??It just has kind of changed peopleâ??s livelihood around here,â?? said Weinheimer.