In most parts of Texas, cotton growers have already signed up for some form of crop insurance. In North and West Texas, growers have until March 15 to finalize this decision.

Having done so, dryland cotton growers may now face an important choice: They can either plant in very dry soil conditions, applying recommended practices, and see if the crop even comes up. Assuming it does not, they will collect the maximum on their crop insurance under the terms of a "failed crop". The other decision is to not plant at all and file a claim of "prevented planting" which provides a percentage of their crop insurance coverage.

The default prevented planting percentage is 50 percent, although North and West Texas growers still have the opportunity to "buy up" this percentage prior to their sales closing date of March 15. The choice of to plant or not will depend on variables their likely costs of planting, their actual date of planting, and the projected insurance payment for failed acres. These will vary for individual farms, so growers need to pencil out the alternatives using values from their current crop insurance policies, expected planting costs, and average planting date.

Colleagues Larry Falconer and Luis Ribera have developed a handy downloadable Excel decision tool, which can help evaluate this farm-specific choice. People can go to this Web site: http://agfacts.tamu.edu/~lfalcone/newweb/software.htm and download this Excel tool.

Due to the complexity of crop insurance issues, growers faced with this decision should also a) check with their insurance agent, and b) check USDA Risk Management Agency regulations to clarify decision deadlines, re-plant requirements, and other issues.