Hurricanes Harvey and Irma made a short-term impact on the commodity price for cotton the past few weeks.
But the executive director of the Oklahoma Cotton Council and an Altus farmer who grows the crop said they don’t foresee a lasting impact on the price caused by potential losses of the crop in south Texas or in the Southeast.
They also said they worry about their brother farmers in hard-hit areas.
“Those are our neighbors, and we don’t want to see anything bad happen to them,” said Harvey Schroeder, executive director of the Oklahoma Cotton Council.
The price for cotton trading Tuesday on Nasdaq fell a bit, closing just short of 70 cents a pound. As the hurricanes were active, however, the price had climbed to as high as more than 75 cents a pound.
Still, Schroeder said the price for cotton typically floats up and down this time of year, and added that even if the expected 20 million bales of cotton the U.S. will produce this year took a hit, “we are still going to be well blessed with cotton in the U.S.”
Mark Nichols, an Altus farmer who grows the crop, agreed.
“We like to say, if it rains in west Texas, the market goes down. The market can get pretty emotional,” Nichols said.
Plus, while Nichols said the U.S. exports up to 90 percent of its cotton to be spun into fabric, he said that’s just a fraction of annual worldwide production.
“How much we produce just isn’t a huge factor on the world market.”
The price farmers can expect to get for the commodity this year ought to be more than enough to cover their expenses, Schroeder and Nichols said.
And in Oklahoma, more farmers are planting cotton as they seek the potential to make better returns on what they produce.
‘It beats growing grain’
Sooner state farmers planted about 470,000 acres of cotton this year, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2016, that number was just more than 300,000 acres.
“It beats growing grain,” Nichols said, referring to the substantial increase in planted acres for the crop this year and the anticipated prices farmers can expect to see from their harvests.
A typical bale of cotton weighs about 500 pounds, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service predicts the average harvest from an acre of cotton in Oklahoma for 2017 will be about 800 pounds.
“Oklahoma may be the third-largest cotton growing state in the country for 2017,” Nichols said. “I would never have dreamed of that, but it is purely a deal of grain prices being so depressed, for so long.”
Growing cotton is easier than it once was. Technological advances have made plants more disease- and insect-resistant. An easing of the drought hasn’t hurt either.
Both Schroeder and Nichols said they don’t mind that more farmers are growing cotton because it’s giving them an opportunity to recover a little bit from harder times.
“It is not a cheap thing to do,” Schroeder said. “It takes a lot of money to put a crop in. But when it pays off, it covers expenses and leaves some for the family farmer.”
The biggest issue they see from this year’s harvest, they said, is that it will take a while for farmers to get their crops harvested and ginned.
Typically, cotton is planted in Oklahoma in early May, and harvesting of the crop usually begins in late October.
“I would love to have it off the stalk and … and ginned by the first of the year, but that probably won’t happen,” Schroeder said. “There was still cotton being ginned in April, and I expect that again.”