The cotton crop in the Rio Grande Valley is off to miserable beginnings because of drought, while in other areas of Texas, scattered showers are making farmers hopeful there will be enough soil moisture when they begin planting, Texas Cooperative Extension reports.

The lower Rio Grande Valley, whose producers are first in the state to begin cotton planting, is extremely dry with only a third of its normal rainfall, said Dr. Carl Anderson, Extension economist in College Station.

“It is getting off to a very poor start as far as the growing conditions, however, it is still too soon to tell how the crop is going to do in this area,” said Anderson.

“The coastal region is in the same situation as well. Acreage is close to what it was last year, but we have had a very dry winter, so there is not sufficient moisture in the subsoil to grow a crop. Very timely rains are mandatory to bring the crop anywhere near average.”

In the western part of the state, the Rolling Plains and the Southern High Plains — where no cotton has been planted yet — have received some good showers.

“That's building up good hope that there will be moisture when they begin planting up there,” said Anderson. “They are about a month to six weeks away in getting started in that part of the state. The middle of May to the middle of June is the optimal time for about 4 million acres of cotton there. But they are definitely going to need some more timely rains.”

Continual rains throughout central and southern Texas are also needed to get the crop in a good growing condition.

“Mother Nature is going to be the determining factor as to whether we are going to have an average crop or not.”

With the exception of a few states, most of the nation is predicted to produce fewer acres than last year. Texas acreage is down 5 percent from last year. Texas is the largest cotton producer in the United States, producing nearly 20 percent of the nation's cotton.

A new farm bill that reimburses farmers because prices are far below production costs is still being considered by legislators.

“It is beginning to be questionable as to whether (Congress) can get it implemented for this growing season. However, they do have a backup plan, so if they do not get a new farm bill put together, then we will probably get some kind of special supplemental payment. There are good chances of getting financial help to producers, however, it is going to be a while,” said Anderson.

That assistance will depend on what action legislators take.

“If it is some sort of emergency-type program, they might be able to get it to them within a few weeks. If they go with the new farm bill, it is going to take up to a few months, because there is a lot of interpretation.

“You draft a farm bill, then it has to go over to another group of people who write up the provisions and the details of implementing the program. That may take several months.”

“You draft a farm bill, then it has to go over to another group of people who write up the provisions and the details of implementing the program. That usually takes several months.

More rainfall was reported across the Rolling Plains in early April, said Galen Chandler, district Extension director. Most counties received at least on-half inch.

“It seems it will only rain over the weekends, but that doesn't bother too many people, as long as it continues,” Chandler said.

The wheat crop in that area has made a tremendous amount of growth in the last two weeks, and it is hoped that will continue to improve with expected warmer weather, he said. Insect infestations are light.

Other livestock, crop and weather conditions were reported by district Extension directors:

Panhandle: Soil moisture is very short to adequate. Wheat conditions range from very poor to good. Range conditions are very poor; cattle are in fair to good condition; supplemental feeding continues. Fire danger in the Panhandle is very high.

South Plains: Soil moisture is adequate. Recent rain has been very beneficial for wheat and native pastures. Livestock condition is fair to good with supplemental feeding continuing. Field preparation continues.

Rolling Plains: Soil moisture is adequate. Cotton land preparation continues across the area; wheat crop will improve with warm weather.

Range and pasture conditions are improving; livestock conditions improving; supplemental feeding continues.

North Texas: Soil moisture is surplus. Corn is growing slowly due to recent cold conditions and is showing signs of insects. Peach trees in full bloom. Cattle are in good condition.

East Texas: Soil moisture is good. Good growth in spring and winter grasses; hay feeding nearing end; cattle conditions excellent, markets steady, spring calving continues. Spring garden planting very active as weather permits.

Far west Texas: Soil moisture is very short to adequate. Livestock still requiring supplemental feeding; rangeland conditions are improving due to recent rains. Cotton farmers are discing their fields; drought conditions remain.

West central Texas: Soil moisture is short. Some areas received from one and a half to 9 inches of rainfall. Wheat condition is good to excellent; small grain fields are growing well, some seed heads are emerging. Pasture conditions are responding well to recent rains.

Central Texas: Soil moisture is adequate. Additional moisture has helped the wheat and oat crop; small grains are nearing the boot stage.

Southeast Texas: Soil moisture is short. Fields still being prepared for sorghum; cutworms affecting corn crop in Orange County; commercial vegetables making good growth. Cattle continue to be supplemented with hay and some feed; pastures being fertilized.

Southwest Texas: Soil moisture is adequate. Corn and sorghum have been planted; cotton planting will start soon; cabbage, carrots and spinach harvesting continues; onions and potatoes are making good progress; wheat and oat yields lower than expected.

Coastal Bend: Soil moisture is short. Crops continue to be moisture-stressed with poor stand establishment; farmers have stopped planting and waiting for rain to plant cotton.

South Texas: Soil moisture is short. Extreme drought conditions have become even worse with no precipitation this week and windy conditions.

Spring onion harvest well under way.