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Serving: West

Best and worst combine with good, bad and ugly in 2007

Charles Dickens would have appreciated 2007. So would Clint Eastwood.

The year had some of “the best of times” and some of “the worst of times” as well as a fistful of good, bad and ugly.

West Texas cotton farmers are completing harvest of one of the best crops many have ever taken to the gin. Irrigated yields pushing, and in some cases exceeding, four bales per acre are far from rare. And more than a few farmers are making dryland yields averaging better than two bales per acre.

“That will work,” said Steve Verett, executive vice president of Plains Cotton Growers Inc.

Verett said grades have been exceptionally good from this crop.

Farmers in Central Texas and throughout the Rolling Plains also reported exceptional yields from the 2007 crop.

Oklahoma cotton made exceptionally good yields. Danny Davis, Elk City, said his crop was one of the best he'd seen in years.

On the flip side, however, much of the South Texas crop suffered from too much moisture from early on through harvest. Some growers said one of the most promising crops they had seen in years deteriorated in the fields in mid to late July as almost daily rains prevented timely harvest.

Wheat producers in the Texas Plains made decent yields. Farmers to the South and into Oklahoma did not fare as well. Central and Northeast Texas wheat producers waited to harvest as some of the best wheat many had seen in years while almost daily rain kept combines out of the fields. Producers were cutting well into July and at least one Northeast Texas grower said he left 1200 acres in the field and had to quit to start cutting corn.

He said the wheat yield was exceptionally good but quality was just as exceptionally bad. His corn crop was good.

Milo producers throughout most of the region made good yields. The exception, again, was South Texas where the same rainy conditions that ruined cotton prospects caught mature milo in the field. Growers scrambled to harvest during any dry spell and turned to four-wheel drive, extra large tires and even tracked vehicles to get the crop out of the field. Yield prospects for much of the area's grain sorghum was excellent but sprouting and high moisture content hurt grades.

Fall weather was near perfect for cotton harvest in West Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Dry conditions gave farmers plenty of opportunity to get the crop in.

That dry spell caused problems for fall wheat seeding, however. In late November, Rolling Plains farmers were seeding wheat into dust. Many pastures had begun to want for moisture and little wheat for grazing had survived in West Texas.

Folks made good hay in 2007.

John Fuston, Texas Farm Service Agency state director, said agriculture across the country did well in 2007, with a $79 billion export market, up $11 billion from last year. “We had record sales for grain, oilseeds and cotton. Biofuels also helped improve our markets.”

Fuston said Texas production also sows promise. “We'll make more than 7 million bales of cotton, up 20 percent from 2006. We'll harvest 266.9 million bushels of corn, up 52 percent from last year. That's a 144 bushel per acre average yield.”

He said milo at 96.6 million hundredweight is a 176 percent increase over 2006. Soybean production is one-third better than in 2006 and wheat, at 3.8 million acres harvested is a 1.4 million acre improvement.

“The year 2007 was a good one for Texas farmers,” Fuston said. “It's easy to see that the 2002 farm bill was effective.”

Todd Staples, Texas Commissioner of Agriculture said agriculture will contribute more than $100 billion to the state's economy this year. “That's a big economic impact,” he said. Staples also spoke at the Texas Commodity Symposium.

“It's a prosperous time for Texas agriculture but the work's not done. If we stop pushing forward we will fall behind.”

He said Texas agriculture stands to take a major role in decreasing the country's dependence on foreign energy. “We need to look at the feed versus food versus fuel dilemma,” he said. “We can meet all those needs. We're not dependent on foreign food and we should not be dependent on foreign oil.”

He said agriculture would tap into new technology, “as it has always done to do things better.”

Staples said a big challenge for agriculture is to “make our urban neighbors understand what agriculture does for them. We have to build alliances. We have to tell our story to people with different interests.”

Many Southwest farmers would take a carbon copy of 2007 for next season.

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