Area farmers suffer major shortfall
By By Sherry Digmon
Advance Staff Writer
Poor quality and low yields accounted for a multi-million dollar shortfall in the 1999 cotton crop.
Currie's Gin manager Tim Currie said he encountered something he hasn't seen in 35 years – short staple cotton.
The majority of the crop in Monroe County, around Atmore, in north Escambia County Fla., and northern Baldwin County was short staple.
Years ago, the standard staple was about one inch. But in order to increase efficiency in textile processing, a longer staple cotton was developed. From 1 inch to 1 1/32 inch, then to 1 and 1/16 inch, 1 and 3/32, and 1 and 1/8 inch.
The most common staple around here is 1 and 1/16 inch.
Currie said most farmers lost about $50 per bale.
Not only was the grade poor, the yield was low.
County Extension Agent Buck Farrior said early predictions on yield were dismal, but the crop turned out a little better than expected, hitting the low end of average.
Farrior said the average yield is 700 to 800 pounds per acre. He estimates that area farmers picked about 730 pounds per acre this year.
Currie agreed with that assessment, adding that in some cases, the yield was down 200 to 300 pounds, since some area farmers bring in 1000 pounds per acre.
With the poor grade and low yield, Currie estimates that the loss is $8 million to $9 million. He includes Monroe County, both Escambia counties, north Baldwin County and Santa Rosa County in those figures.
According to Farrior, acres planted in cotton were Monroe County, 29,000; Escambia County, Ala., 28,000; Escambia County, Fla., 13,500.
The number of bales ginned were Monroe County, 23,754; West Florida Gin, 17,198; Currie's Gin, 51,404.
The total ginned in this area was 93,086 bales. That's 15 percent of the state production which is 600,000 bales.
Weather conditions in 1999 were not favorable for cotton in this area, but corn and wheat growers across the state reported record harvests.
According to the Alabama Department of Agriculture, the 1999 crop year could be divided into halves. The first half got off to a good start with an ample amount of precipitation. By mid-summer, however, precipitation grew scarce over most of the state. Cotton and soybeans matured rapidly in the hot, dry conditions.
Crops that were established before the onset of adverse conditions broke records.
Corn growers harvested a record 103 bushels to the acre, compared with 63 bushels in 1998 and the previous 96 bushels in 1994.
The wheat yield of 48 bushels per acre tied the record set in 1994.
Currie said prices for corn and wheat were abysmal.