State agriculture experts question cotton yield outlook

Updated: Dec. 20, 2017 at 8:09 PM CST
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(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

WIREGRASS, AL (WSFA) - Although the USDA predicts state wide cotton yields to be the third highest in the state's history, local agriculture experts say they're not so sure.

Yield projections are about 931 pounds per acre, according to the USDA. Regional agronomist anticipate numbers being less.

"The problem is it's just not there. It's just not weighing up. There's just no way we're going to hit 900. My estimation would be statewide maybe in the low 8's or mid to high 7's," said Brandon Dillard, Regional Agronomist for Alabama Cooperative Extension Center.

The numbers translate to what local cotton ginners are seeing this year. Farmers are bringing in quality, just not quantity.

"I was talking to a farmer the other day who is getting 150 to 200 pounds less per acre than what he got last year," said Weston Jones, Assistant Gin Manager for Rainbow Cotton Gin.

State agriculture experts say the reason cotton yield numbers appear great is because early estimates were made on how the cotton looked.

"Looking at this cotton, it looks great and it's fluffy. From the road it looked great and those estimations from those farmers were way off," said Dillard.

Cotton farmers took the biggest hit this year from Mother Nature when hurricanes blew through the state. Strong winds whipped through cotton fields. It's part of the reason ginners are still at work,

"We were done the first of December. This year, we'll be in the middle of January getting done," said Jones.

"It's not because the quantity of cotton. It's because farmers were so late getting started picking because of the hurricanes," said Dillard.

State agriculture experts anticipate cotton farmers to make less money this year and say they're also facing another financial issue,

"The cotton seed price has come way down. Now cotton farmers are having to pay for the ginning. In the past we'd sell that seed to the calf dairy industry and that would pay for our ginning," said Dillard.

One good thing for farmers right now is that the price of cotton is going up and the demand is high.

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