Farmers say cotton did more than just escape the drought — it’s one of the most beautiful, bountiful harvests in years.
North Alabama cotton farms will have a record crop this year, according to agricultural experts, but the price per pound has dropped from $1.15 to 72 cents in a year’s time.
Billy Bridgeforth, owner of Darden Bridgeforth and Sons farm in Tanner, said he likely won’t plant the white stuff next year, instead using the farmland for corn, wheat and soybeans. He said profits for an acre of cotton are about $200 less than last year. Soybeans are more profitable now, at about $15 a bushel.
“Farmers have to plant what’s profitable,” he said. “Right now, the market wants grain.”
Even with the lower price, Bridgeforth’s 1,000 acres of cotton were still a welcome sight. His corn harvest earlier this year was all but destroyed by the dry summer. Farmers typically shoot for corn harvests of 80 to 100 bushels per acre, or around 140 in a good year. This year, it will be a miracle for farmers to reach 50 bushels. A bushel is about 56 pounds.
“Cotton is still king in Alabama,” Bridgeforth said. “It’s disappeared before, and it always comes back.”
The cotton yield almost couldn’t be better at two bales per acre (each bale is about 500 pounds), but the acreage is almost 10,000 acres less than last year, said Limestone Extension Office agronomic crops researcher Eric Schavey.
Schavey said cotton is technically a tree and a tropical plant, both qualities that help it fight drought.
“It has a strong taproot,” he said.
Roger Faulk manages the South Limestone Co-op cotton gin in Belle Mina.
As many as nine gins operated in Limestone County in 1960. Now there are three.
Gins remove seeds and extra foliage from cotton balls, leaving only the fluffy part. About 40 percent of what is harvested from the field becomes finished product.
Though cotton is still integral in Alabama, Faulk doubts the state is still king of the industry, a title it once held proudly as the nation’s leading cotton producer.
“Texas is probably the king now,” he said.
Texas farms harvested 3.2 million acres of cotton in 2011. Alabama harvested 440,000.
Faulk said lower prices could be a result of more international competition in the marketplace.
Not registered? Click here
|High School Sports||@DecaturPreps|