Texas cotton growers face poor prices amid high domestic and foreign production, coupled with weakening demand, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
John Robinson, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension cotton marketing specialist, College Station, said low cotton prices and unfavorable market conditions are making the 2019 growing season a difficult one for Texas producers.
Cotton futures have settled around 65 cents per pound since September after dipping below 60 cents per pound earlier in 2019, Robinson said.
Robinson said this decline followed two years of good prices for Texas growers. Cotton prices experienced some upticks this season but were still not at a profitable level for many Texas producers.
According to AgriLife Extension planning budgets, producers in most areas of Texas need cash prices to be at least 70-75 cents per pound to cover their costs.
“That’s just higher than where we are at pricewise right now,” he said. “There may be some opportunities for some increases, but market indications show even more downward pressure on 2019 cotton prices.”
Trade with China continues to add uncertainty to U.S. cotton prices, but other market forces have been working against cotton. Good prices in 2017 and 2018 led to expansion of cotton acres, and a boon harvest nationally resulted in ample supplies amid already low prices.
Meanwhile, economies around the globe, including the U.S., have slowed, meaning less demand for textiles, Robinson said.
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China continues to purchase some U.S. cotton despite a 25% tariff, but Brazilian cotton has taken a bite out of historic U.S. market shares there, Robinson said.
Robinson said resolution to the U.S.-China trade dispute might cause a price increase, but supply and demand levels likely indicate a significant rally will not come.
“Economic projections show slowing, and generally that means cotton prices will decline as well,” he said. “Excess supplies, lower prices and lower demand make marketing for 2019 difficult.”
Robinson said there could be a silver lining to low prices this season for Texas cotton growers – fewer acres nationally in 2020. Production could be down more than 3 million acres in other parts of the country as growers look to more profitable crop options like corn or soybeans.
U.S.-China trade will factor into soybean acres, but Robinson believes lower cotton supplies in 2020 could initiate the price rally Texas growers need to turn a profit.
“There’s really not much positive to look at this year, but there might be an opportunity in ’20,” he said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: The district experienced its first frost with temperature lows in the low- to mid-20s. Rain helped wheat and oats. Producers were finishing planting oats and wheat. Pastures were in poor condition due to the dry conditions. Livestock were in good to fair condition with supplemental feed. Significant rainfall was needed to replenish stock tanks. Nearly all counties reported short moisture levels.
ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions were cool and wet. Wheat emergence slowed, and producers slowed plantings as they waited on moisture. Some cotton producers were in the process of defoliation and others started stripping. Supplemental hay feeding continued for stockers waiting to graze wheat.
COASTAL BEND: The district received widespread rainfall, as much as 5 inches in some areas. Temperatures dropped, and several areas reported their first frost or light freeze of the year. Most fieldwork was on hold due to wet conditions, while drier areas continued to work fields to prevent boll weevils. Producers were making plans to fertilize as soon as conditions permit.
Pasture conditions improved with recent rainfall, but some areas continued to feed hay and protein. Some late hay harvest activity was reported. Livestock remained in good condition, and producers were keeping local auctions busy with weaned calves and cull cows.
EAST: First frost hit about two weeks earlier than normal. Many producers started feeding hay due to a drastic drop in temperatures and recent rainfall. As much as 3.5 inches of rain was received by some areas. A few producers continued to cut hay. Winter forages were planted and growing well. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair. Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels were adequate.
Livestock were in fair to good condition. Anderson County reported local cattle markets were up, while Shelby County reported a significant price drop. Wild pigs caused widespread damage across the district. Sabine County reported wild pig populations hit an all-time high.
SOUTH PLAINS: Temperatures dipped down to 18 degrees, and scattered showers were reported. Farmers were busy stripping cotton. The early, hard freeze should help farmers use less defoliants. Rangeland and winter wheat were in fair condition. Local gins were busy, and grain elevators continued to accept truckloads of grain. Cattle were in good condition.
PANHANDLE: Temperatures dropped, and 2-5 inches of snowfall were reported. Cotton harvest stopped due to wet weather in southern parts of the district. Bolls were open in northern areas of the district. Winter wheat was planted and had emerged in most areas. Soybeans dropped leaves. Corn was in fair condition in the southeast and northeast parts of the district. Subsoil and topsoil levels were surplus. Pasture and rangeland were in fair to good condition.
NORTH: Topsoil moisture levels were mostly adequate with some counties reporting shortages. Rain and cold weather arrived with up to 1.5 inches of rain. A light freeze occurred. Some cool-season forages were emerging. Producers continued to plant winter wheat. Warm-season grasses were going dormant though there was quite a bit of standing forage in some pastures. Several ranchers reported having enough standing forage to get them to the first to middle part of December without feeding any hay.
High-to-low temperature changes caused some stress in livestock. Spring-born calves continued to be weaned. Market prices remained depressed in all classes of cattle, especially for the calves and cull cows. There were still some stocker calves grazing warm-season summer grasses, but most of those were expected to go to the feedlot after the killing freeze.
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FAR WEST: Temperatures ranged from the low 80s to the upper teens. Trace precipitation covered the area. The first freeze was reported across the region. The killing freeze helped with pests, including flies. Cotton was still slowly progressing with most bolls open, but the freeze was not good for late-planted cotton that had not opened yet. Cotton harvest continued as growers moved into more irrigated fields. Grades were all over the board on dryland fields with good and poor grades reported. Grades in irrigated fields were expected to be better and more consistent.
Rain was needed badly as subsoil moisture was short, and growers want to plant a wheat crop. Most pastures were dormant and changing color. Winter forages were emerging in some areas. Pawnee pecans were being harvested, and Western pecans were expected to be harvested in the next couple of months. Pecan split was occurring in some varieties. The freezes could threaten some varieties. Livestock were in good condition overall. Cattle farmers were moving cattle to winter pastures. Producers continued to feed livestock and wildlife.
WEST CENTRAL: Conditions were warm and dry with a late cold front. Some moisture was received, but mostly trace amounts of light drizzle. A hard freeze occurred with temperatures ranging from 19-22 degrees. Cotton harvest was underway. Winter wheat planting continued, with little to no soil moisture for emergence. Rangelands and pastures were entering winter dormancy. Stock tank levels remained low to critical. Supplemental feeding of livestock increased.
SOUTHEAST: Parts of the district experienced the first frost of the year. Areas also received rain showers throughout the reporting period. Walker County reported several days of rain, which changed soil moisture conditions quickly. Growing conditions for planted cool-season forages improved with rain and warmer weather. Rangeland and pasture ratings were excellent to very poor with good being most common. Soil moisture levels ranged from adequate to very short with adequate being most common.
SOUTHWEST: Recent rains were a welcome sight to the district with some areas receiving 0.5-0.75 inches of rain. Conditions stayed stable as colder weather moved in. Range and pasture conditions remained similar to the previous week and livestock conditions remained good. Winter wheat plantings were underway. Supplemental feeding continued. Deer season opened with deer in fair condition.
SOUTH: Weather was mild with very short to adequate soil moisture levels. Duval County reported very short topsoil and subsoil moisture levels. Temperatures started to cool in parts of the district. Live Oak County reported rain and cold temperatures. Maverick County reported no rain and temperatures in the 50s.
Cameron County reported a cold front brought rain and temperatures in the 30s. Peanut harvest was underway and should progress quickly if good weather holds. Moisture was received, but most areas needed more. Oats, wheat, rye and triticale germinated and were emerging, but rain would help them. Wheat and oat planting continued. Pasture and rangeland conditions continued to improve in some areas with recent rainfall. Livestock supplemental feeding continued.
Jim Wells County reported pastures and rangelands continued to decline. Ranchers around the district were still culling herds due to drought conditions despite some improvement. Cattle market prices were low due to the high numbers of livestock for sale. Pecan orchards were reporting a good harvest this year.
Colder temperatures provided good growing conditions for cool season crops such as spinach, cabbage and greens in Zavala County. Spinach harvest was eight to 10 days out. Some producers continued to apply irrigation to fields. Producers continued cotton stalk destruction. Cotton ginning continued around the clock.