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Drought takes toll on cotton
by Kenda Nelson
Sep 10, 2012 | 1312 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bayside-Richardson Gin is running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to finish ginning  all the cotton pods that line the acreage across the street from the gin near Bonnie View. David Wyatt, manager of the gin, says cotton yield was about 1 to 1 1/4 bales per acre.
Bayside-Richardson Gin is running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to finish ginning all the cotton pods that line the acreage across the street from the gin near Bonnie View. David Wyatt, manager of the gin, says cotton yield was about 1 to 1 1/4 bales per acre.
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Kenda Nelson photo.Custom haulers from Santa Rosa are ready to move out of Refugio County now that the harvest is nearing completion. Cotton pods across from Bayside Richardson Gin are ready for ginning.
Kenda Nelson photo.Custom haulers from Santa Rosa are ready to move out of Refugio County now that the harvest is nearing completion. Cotton pods across from Bayside Richardson Gin are ready for ginning.
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REFUGIO ­– Farming in the midst of a drought is a daunting business. And predictably, the dry weather played havoc with this year’s crop.

“It’s the only business where you can do everything right and still bust,” said David Wyatt, manager of Bayside-Richardson Gin.

Cotton futures are 30 percent lower than last year – from 76 cents to 72 cents, according to Wyatt.

“With these kinds of prices, you need to make 1 1/2 bales per acre to break even,” the manager said.

The farmers in the county averaged approximately one bale per acre.

Between custom cotton haulers from Santa Rosa and seed haulers from Taft, traffic to the gin was heavy during August. Like the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, a well-defined trail of cotton bolls mark most farm-to-market roads.

Floyd Niemann Farms brought in the first bales of cotton – no prize is awarded, just bragging rights.

The gin remains in harvest mode – running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Travel trailers once again line the acre set aside for workers.

The cotton harvest in north part of the county and in San Patricio were the last to arrive at the gin, with the average yield coming in at about a bale an acre, and that’s about one-tenth off last year’s crop.

Approximately 12,000 to 13,000 acres were planted in cotton. One-third of that was cut down and “insured out.”

“The yield was too low to justify the expense of harvesting,” Wyatt said.

Unlike cotton, other crop futures were better.

“The milo and corn prices are great, but they didn’t have a lot to sell,” Wyatt said.

Thirty years ago, the domestic market utilized two-thirds of what is produced locally; now the opposite is true. One-third is used domestically and two-thirds is exported.

“Now we’re dealing with world markets,” Wyatt said. “I don’t like being dependent on world markets. In a supply-and-demand driven market, the farmers did better.”

Historically, cotton has been the major crop in Refugio County. Wyatt says 1995 was the last great season for cotton. That year 32,000 acres were harvested.

“Cotton has always been the crop that put farmers in the black; it’s the most expensive, but when they hit, it’s the most profitable,” Wyatt said.

Unfortunately, 2012 didn’t hit, Wyatt added.
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