Cotton harvest is starting in Oklahoma. Moving from the southwestern counties northward, some gins are running two shifts ginning constantly and others are just beginning to get under way.

In Jackson County, Lynn Scalf, manager of the Farmers Cooperative gin at Martha, reports he has two crews working 12 hour shifts back to back processing a lot of cotton.

"We have ginned 10,000 bales to date," he said. "We have been ginning for two and a half weeks now and have about 180 cotton modules on the yard waiting to be ginned. We ginned 23,000 bales last year."

"As most people know, prices paid for cotton are really high this year," Scalf said. "I understand some sold recently for $1.30 per pound. There is a high demand for US cotton around the world right now."

Many of the farmer-owned cooperatives in Oklahoma, North Texas and Kansas belong to the Plains Cotton Cooperative Association in Lubbock, Texas, which sells cotton in a marketing pool to obtain the best price available.

Jay Cowart, PCCA director of warehouse operations, says farmers make a personal choice in marketing their cotton.

This year, Cowart points out, is one of those "once in a lifetime situations," when the amount of available cotton worldwide is very small and with a world economy beginning to recover, cotton demand is high.

Market options

"Typically," Cowart said, "the cooperative will spread out cotton sales to get the best prices we can. Around one-third will be sold pre-harvest, another one-third during the harvest and the final one-third will be sold after the harvest each year.

"Cotton is sold at a price above the government loan value for the crop, around 52.40 cents per pound. If farmers sold some of their cotton before harvest, they probably received 12 cents per pound over loan value for it. Currently, with the high prices being paid, they would be receiving 55 cents per pound over loan value.'

Whatever price farmers receive, Cowart says, the price they are paid will depend on the quality of their cotton.

"If you and I have cotton which grades the same, we will receive the same price for it," he said. "Cotton mills demand cotton which has a long, strong fiber that will enable them to make top quality cloth."

Good yields

Cotton yields so far this season have been very good. Scalf says the irrigated cotton in his gin is averaging two to two-and-a-half bales per acre, maybe not as good as 2009, but good yields anyhow.

Dryland cotton yields for farmers bringing cotton to the Martha gin have been really good, Scalf says, "A lot of the area dryland fields that received timely rains are giving farmers two-bale per acre cotton."

The Tri-County Cooperative gin north of Chattanooga has ginned 1,250 bales to date with modules sitting on the yard and more cotton being harvested.

Humphreys Cooperative gin north of Altus in Jackson County has ginned 11,000 bales to date with expectations of some 11,000 more to come with farmers harvesting cotton now.

Farther north at Clinton, the Midwest Farmers, Inc., Gin has started with 889 bales already processed, modules on the yard and farmers harvesting. The Farmers Cooperative Association gin at Butler in Custer County has ginned 480 bales to date and has more cotton coming in.

Harmon County Cooperative gin at Hollis, Okla., has ginned 5,800 bales with a yard of modules and more cotton being harvested.

Cotton harvest in Kansas is getting started with gins beginning to receive cotton.

TALKIN' COTTON is produced by NTOK Cotton, a cotton industry partnership which supports and encourages increased cotton production in the Rolling Plains of North Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. For more information on the cotton scene, contact ntokcotton.org and okiecotton.org. For questions or comments about Talkin' Cotton, contact eventerprise1@hughes.net.