Weather, as usual, will pose the biggest challenge for Texas High Plains cotton growers this year, says Craig Heinrich, president, Plains Cotton Growers.
“Weather is typically our No. 1 challenge,” Heinrich said at the conclusion of the 56th annual meeting for PCG in Lubbock. “We have come through two really, really dry years, including the worst drought in 100 years. So, we will be looking for rainfall and hope we can increase production.”
Henirich also mentoned the farm bill, or lack of one, as an issue that PCG will follow over the next few months. “We need a five-year farm progam so we can make long-term plans,” he said.
Water issues, especially regarding new limits from the High Plains Underground Water District No. 1, also warrants PCG attention. “We have already been working with the dsitrict,” he said. Efforts include a water management committee and having penalties suspended through the 2013 season.
“We are working to see what we can improve,” he said.
A cottonseed insurance program developed by PCG proved successful last year in helping cotton farmers protect a valuable resource — cottonseed. The ability to insure cottonseed as well as fiber, protected farmers from signifiantt losses during the drought. More than 60 percent of Texas cotton farmers signed up for the insurance program.
“We also continue to support federal crop insurance and ask that legislators continue to strengthen the program.”
Heinrich encouraged Congress to “keep commodity titles in place with no new regulations on farmers.”
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He said herbicide-resistant pigweed creates problems for High Plains cotton. “We’ve been working with Texas AgriLife and research to publish management tips.”
PCG is also involved in efforts to prevent the lesser prairie chicken from being listed as an endangered species. Interested parties from five Southwestern states have been involved in analyzing the issue, which could affect both rangeland and CRP acreage. “We are trying to prevent listing the prairie chicken as endangered and are working to formulate conservation efforts to improve habitat.”
Contract arbitration rules have also been an issue over the past year. “We have become more vocal about that,” Heinrich said. The crux of the matter is to maintain contract sanctity.
He expects cotton acreage to top earlier planting projections. “Since January, grain prices have come down, and cotton prices have come up. I think we will see acreage increases above early estimates. I’m not sure how much. Weather issues will play a role. But cotton is important to this area. We have the largest continguous cotton patch in the world. Cotton drives the eoncomy here.”
Steve Verett, executive vice president for PCG, said High Plains cotton farmers have “faced some tough times the last couple of years. But, for the most part, they are still farming and are here to farm another day.
“We did some better in 2012, and we had crop insurance to support us. I hope it stays available for the future.”
Verett praised the volunteer leadership that allows PCG to function smoothly. “Each member gin has the ability to appoint a board member,” he said. “That’s the fabric of this organization. The board of directors are the ones who drive this train and make a difference.”
He also praised his staff. “They are absolutely incredible, and they give me the freedom to do the things that I need to do on behalf of the organization.”