2014 GA Cotton County Yields and Upcoming Events

We’ve gotten a few questions from growers and county agents recently about last years yield numbers, particularly individual county yields. The 2014 GA average cotton yield was 862 lbs/acre. The top yielding, according to the 2014 NASS data, was Calhoun County at 1,191 lbs/acre followed closely by Seminole at 1,179 lbs/acre and Decatur at 1,172 lbs/acre. Thats about 2.5 bales/acre. Click here to see a complete list of counties. Below are the top 10 counties by yield according to the NASS data.

Rank County lb/acre
1 CALHOUN 1,191
2 SEMINOLE 1,179
3 DECATUR 1,172
4 MILLER 1,119
5 WILCOX 1,025
6 WORTH 1,010
7 MACON 1,008
8 LEE 1,005
9 JEFFERSON 998
10 MITCHELL 996

As you can see the top 10 yielding counties all had similar yields with a standard deviation of only 84 lbs/acre. In fact, we only had a 139.6 lb/acre standard deviation across all counties represented in the NASS data. The lowest yielding counties, Stewart, Pulaski, and Laurens, still made 1.25 bales/acre. You may notice counties listed as “Other (Combined) Counties” in the NASS data. These are counties with smaller acreage that NASS will not disclose for privacy reasons, such as some counties in north GA that are farmed by only one or two families.

There are several events coming up that are frequented by cotton farmers and industry folks.

June 8th and 16th are the UGA cotton scout schools.

July 8th is the Stripling Irrigation Research Park Field Day.

July 9th is the Sunbelt Ag Expo Field Day.

We are a long way from harvest time, but the Georgia Agribusiness Council recently announced their Annual Harvest Celebration will be Nov 20th. This years featured entertainment is Terri Clark.

Articles of interest this week:

Cotton Remains in the Range, but Tempts Downside Support (UGA’s Don Shurley)

Cotton Yields-What Can Southeast Farmers Expect with El Nino? (UGA’s Pam Knox)

Why America’s Cotton Producers Need Access to Affordable Crop Insurance (NCC Chairman Sledge Taylor)

Planting Progress and GABIE’s

Most folks in cotton country don’t have to be told but there has been a lot of cotton planted in south GA in the last two weeks. The long spell of dry weather has allowed everyone to get back into the fields, and now it appears that it’s become too dry to plant in dryland situations. The crop progress report for May 17 indicates that 44% of Georgia cotton has been planted. This is a huge jump from 19% indicated in the May 10 report. The five year average for cotton planting progress is 45%, so GA is basically back on schedule as far as the season goes. If we don’t get a good shower across much of the GA cotton belt, I’d suspect planting progress will slow down. Most reports indicated a few showers here and there but everyone seems to be saying that their areas are too dry now.

Today we had the pleasure of visiting with the Great American Bus Interactive Education (GABIE) group as they taught kids at Ola Middle School in McDonough about GA agriculture. GABIE is unique in that they have outfitted an old school bus with agricultural teaching materials that they drive to each school they visit. Inside the bus there are several stations. Each station is dedicated to a different major commodity in GA, such as cotton, peanuts, pecans, etc. Students not only learn about the commodity at each station but they get to touch the commodity or its product (like cloths). Outside of the bus they have two stations where they teach kids about growing plants from seeds and how foods are processed from commodities, like flour from wheat and oil from cottonseed. Below are just a few pictures from this very neat group of folks who are passionate about teaching kids about ag. From the best of our knowledge, FFA and 4-H are the only formal ag instruction that kids receive and most schools only have these programs in high schools, some have them in middle school but it is imperative that children start to learn about agriculture at an early age.

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The cotton station inside the bus.

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Students touch seed cotton for the first time inside the station.

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Students learn about planting seeds and growing crops at an outdoor station.

4300 Students Learn About Georgia Cotton

Today marks the final day for school visits this spring as most schools will be finishing up for summer break here soon. You can visit our Facebook page for pictures of visits the spring.The last several weeks have been packed with visiting and discussing cotton with elementary and middle school aged children. Just last week and this week have included visits at Thomson-McDuffie Middle School, Colquitt County 4th graders, Miller County Elementary, Evans County Elementary, Heard Elementary (Bibb County), and Cave Springs Elementary (Floyd County). The total number of students visited this spring was just over 3700. We also were able to send our teaching materials to several other schools (600 students) which we could not attend their event. This brings the total number of students to just over 4300 hundred that learned about Georgia cotton this spring. This is just a tad better than the 3900 kids that learned about cotton last year.

Articles of interest this week:

Talkin’ Turkey About Political Trade Games

Deja Vue all over again?

Final 2014 Cotton Numbers

Georgia Cotton Farmers Participate in National Leadership Program

Mandatory GMO Labeling is Not Good For Anyone

If you have been anywhere around a TV or computer hopefully you have been following the GMO labeling debate. Many states have unfortunately passed legislation to require food companies to label food products that contain ingredients from GMO crops. Some uninformed consumers think this is a good idea. I hear “I want to know what’s in my food” and “we have the right to know what is in our food.” Those are valid arguments and consumers already know what is in their food; product ingredients are already listed on the label in descending order by weight. Adding an additional label that says “This product contains GMO ingredients” will do nothing but harm consumers and farmers alike.

We can all remember years ago when the FDA required that all products begin listing trans fats on their nutrition label. Trans fats were studied for many years and were determined to be potentially harmful and therefore their content needed to be included on the label. Multiple entities have studied GMOs and no study has shown GMOs to be a potential health risk. Therefore, if all products are required to put a GMO content statement on the label it would imply that GMOs are potentially harmful, even though there is no science to prove this idea. This would lead the consumer to think that GMOs are bad for their health like trans fats and they would start thinking about buying “GMO Free” labeled products. One could ask “well if it’s on the label then I need to know about it for a reason.”

Most people probably wonder why cotton farmers and the Georgia Cotton Commission would care if GMOs are labeled or not. Well, cotton is both a food and a fiber crop. Yes, you ate some cotton today. Just check any salad dressing, snack food, fast food, or peanut butter jar label and will see that you’ve consumed cottonseed oil recently. In fact, most peanut butters I’ve seen have cottonseed oil in them. And those red bags of Georgia Peanuts that we eat everyday for a snack, yep they were cooked in cottonseed oil. Therefore the cotton industry has a vested interest in keeping GMO labeling off of the table.

peanutbutterjarpeanutbag1  peanutbag2

What the cotton industry does support, along with over 300 other ag groups, is a voluntary program that gives the FDA sole authority across the US in determining if a product should require a GMO label. This would fix the patchwork of states that have already passed state legislation to label GMOs, which a nightmare for ag companies to comply with. H.R. 1599 was recently introduced in Congress and is supported by many ag groups. The Commission, along with many other groups, signed onto a letter from the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Foods indicating we support a voluntary program that is nationwide that gives the FDA the ability to label GMO products if those products create a health risk.

Here is a brief summary and you can read the support letter here.

Articles of interest:

Saluting Dixon Cotton Gin Manager Jaclyn Ford

Cotton Market: “Fish or Cut Bait” Decision

Mr. Xi, and others, Tear Down These Walls

Cotton Producers Scrambling for Nematicide Replacement

Weather a Hot Topic, Farmer Resources Available

This week and the next will be filled with more school visits by the Georgia Cotton Commission. One thing that is very obvious from traveling the state is how the weather effects farmers differently in different parts of the state. While most of south GA has been too wet until this past week to do any field work, most of the fields I’ve seen in north GA look ready for field work but the soil temperatures are still to low to do any planting. Everyone knows that the weather plays a major role in the outcome of your farming operation and that there really isn’t much you can do to change the weather in your area. One thing you can do is use the available resources to help you understand how the weather, particularly weather forecast, can help you manage your farming operation. We were fortunate to have Pam Knox speak at our 8th Annual Meeting back in January. Mrs. Knox is the UGA State Agricultural Climatologist. She writes a daily blog about weather and climate. She also has a great website, AgroClimate.org that is dedicated to Southeastern agriculture and the climate. Some of her daily blogs include topics such as how we still have huge dry pockets in GA despite all the rain we have had this spring. Also, she wrote a good blog piece about stressing caution using mobile apps for weather forecast. One very important resource available on the AgroClimate website is how El Nino/La Nina affect agriculture. On the AgroClimate homepage, the Climate Phase Forecast indicates we are in an El Nino year. As many of you know, El Nino/La Nina’s are weather patterns that develop every 4 years or so and can have huge impacts on yields and quality. Some typical things found in El Nino years for southeastern farmers are wetter conditions throughout the year making it hard to get a start on the year and hard to finish out the year because of early fall rains. Interestingly though, cotton yields tend to be higher in El Nino years as indicated by this map. Also, El Nino years tend to be cooler, on average, compared to La Nina years.

Last but certainly not least is the GaClimate.org website. It provides statewide weather information for GA and has the most current data on precipitation, soil temperature, soil moisture, and several other useful data points that can help you make real time decisions on your farm. GaClimate.org basically pulls data from lots of different resources around the state to give you a single source for all of your weather related info.

I would encourage anyone farming this year (or even gardening) to check out some of the links provided throughout this blog to really help you understand how the weather affects your farm and some things that you may can do to plan around weather events.