West Texas cotton farmers face “a continuation of the challenges we faced in 2011,” said Plains Cotton Growers President Brad Heffington following the annual PCG annual conference recently in Lubbock.

Last year, Heffington said, was the driest on record for the Texas High Plains. “One of the consequences of that is that our underground moisture situation is still pretty dire. But I do see some changes in the weather pattern, from an old farmer’s perspective. We’ve had a few showers, and it feels like a more normal rain pattern. But we need some rain, not just showers, to get our crop going.”

Heffington, who farms near Littlefield, said most people are pretty optimistic after seeing some showers following a 12- to 18-month stretch with virtually none. “If we can get a good planting rain and some timely rain during the summer, that’s how we make our living on the High Plains. We are a rain-deficit area but, fortunately, most of our rain comes in the growing season. We’re cautiously optimistic that weather patterns are changing. If you have experience in this industry, you can see the changes.”

He’s not as upbeat about cotton prices, however.

“We went from a record high price that most producers couldn’t take advantage of—because they didn’t have a crop in 2011—to a 40-percent drop in the price of cotton from this time last year. Our input prices keep rising as they do every year—seed and fuel, especially, our labor and our equipment expense—I really can’t comprehend sometimes how much that goes up each year.”

He said at the current price of cotton, with futures in the low 90-cent range, “we can make a profit at average yields. Everyone is pretty excited about that. But we are a little worried about how that price will hold if there is a cotton crop across the world, and we start building supplies after a deficit period.”