According to USDA, U.S. cotton producers harvested a record 23.25 million bales in 2005. The outlook is favorable for 2006 as well, but dry spots in Texas are a cause for concern. The National Weather Service reports November and December rainfall across the Lone Star State measured less than one-10th of an inch. Further north in Arkansas, producers are fairing a bit better. And even though they face increased energy costs for irrigation, Arkansas growers were in tall cotton this year.
Despite a drought followed by rains from two Gulf Coast hurricanes at harvest time, Arkansas' cotton crop was the second-best ever produced in the state according to experts.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates Arkansas farmers harvested an average 1,011 pounds of cotton per acre this year, an increase of 26 percent over the 10-year average. Nationally, the state was third in cotton yield behind California and Arizona.
The downside of this year's crop was its cost. Farm production expenses for fuel before Hurricane Katrina hit were projected to exceed $10 billion in 2005, up 25 percent from 2004. After the storm, gasoline prices reached an all-time high in Arkansas at $2.99 per gallon. Everything farmers do is related to fuel --the pickups, the tractors, even the pumps for irrigation. Production costs were so high that some producers fear there could be fewer growers next year.