There will be no record cotton crop in Virginia this year. Heavy rains the weeks of Sept. 27 and Oct. 4 knocked significant yields off this year’s cotton harvest, although not enough to declare crop disasters, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
“Our growers are still harvesting, so it’s too early to gauge the full impact on the crop,” said Spencer Neale, vice president of commodity marketing for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Right now we’re hearing it’s a very mixed bag, with some fields really damaged and others still in good shape.”
The weekly NASS crop weather report for Nov. 2 estimated 7 percent of Virginia’s cotton crop was in poor condition, 26 percent was rated as fair and the rest was in good or excellent shape. Fifty-one percent of the cotton harvest is completed.
“Last year Virginia recorded the highest yields for non-irrigated cotton in the country, more than 1,200 pounds an acre,” Neale said. “This year we won’t come close to that. That’s farming—one year up and another year down. Some fields are coming in at 400-pound yields so far this year.”
The losses are no surprise since some parts of Southeast Virginia recorded more than 3 inches of rain at the beginning of October. Neale said cotton growers farther south got hit worse.
“Some growers have crop insurance if needed. The damage isn’t enough for a disaster to be declared in Virginia like there will be in North Carolina and South Carolina. But of course (disaster relief is) not a profit for the farmer. For the ones who were really hurt, it’s not going to make them whole.”
The October 2015 crop estimate from NASS predicts Virginia cotton production will be down 14 percent from last year’s output, at 190,000 bales. Virginia cotton growers planted 2,000 fewer acres than last year as well, dropping to 84,000 acres. U.S. cotton production is off 18 percent from 2014.
“There’s always disappointment when there’s a weather problem at the end of a growing season,” Neale said. “Cotton prices haven’t been great either. On top of that there are some issues with the soybean crop as well. But again, that’s farming.”