The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 1, 2012

Cotton gins expect better year


Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Cotton gins in Oklahoma are busy this fall, even though the continuing drought reduced the crop again.

At least there is some cotton being harvested this year, not like last year, the worst drought year on record for the Southern Plains.

Jantz Bain, manager of Humphreys Farmers Co-operative southeast of Altus, said his gin has processed 520 bales so far. He expects the season will bring 10,000-11,000 bales of cotton in production to his facility.

“Our production this year probably will double what we ginned last year,” he said.

For comparison purposes, Humphreys’ gin totaled a 56,000-bale run in 2010, the last year when enough rain came to have a good dryland crop.

Bain says a lot of the irrigated cotton he is ginning this year comes from Tillman County. More than 95 percent of it came from irrigated fields, either pivot systems or row irrigation, he said.

Even in a lean year of agricultural production, cotton gins like the one at Humphreys contribute to the economical welfare of the community and to  Jackson County.

“We are running the gin and taking care of our other responsibilities with our in-house crew,” Bain said.

“In a good year, we would be running the gin 24 hours a day to keep up with the harvest and have a 20 person crew. Right now, our staff varies from six to 16 people, depending on the situation.”

On the west side of Altus, another cotton gin, the Cotton Growers Cooperative gin, is running this year. Manager Mike Berry says his gin has processed 4,000 bales to date.

He expects the 2012 season to yield a total of 6,000 bales. Like the other Jackson County gins, Berry’s facility is running less time with a reduced crew due to the lack of enough cotton to gin.

But 2012 is better than 2011, when the drought kept the Cotton Growers gin silent all season.

“Most of our cotton is coming from the Duke area west of Altus and from Kiowa County east of the North Fork of the Red River,” Berry said. “Nearly all of it was harvested from irrigated fields.”

Again for comparison, in 2010, Cotton Growers gin processed more than 100,000 bales for the ginning season.

“We ginned from September, 2010, until February, 2011,” he said. “We kept two crews of 24 people working 24 hours a day, seven days a week during that period.”

Now, Berry’s crew consists of  12 people working an 8 a.m.-7 p.m. shift five days a week and no ginning on the weekends, he said.

But Berry is happy to see his gin running and pushing bales of cotton out the door.

“We have seen two consecutive years without enough water in the Lake Altus reservoir to be able to irrigate crops in the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District,” he said.

“If we are able to irrigate in 2013 during the growing season, we will need to get enough rain on the lake watershed next spring to fill the lake. Even with plenty of rain, there are a lot of ponds and small lakes from here to Northeast Texas which have been enlarged and dug out during the drought to store more water when it does rain.”

All of those improvements done by farmers and ranchers, combined with the water erosion control provided by no-till and minimum tillage in the same area, along with large acreages planted back to grass under Conservation Reserve Programs reduces the amount of rain runoff finding its way into the Red River forks which feed Lake Altus, he said.

Just north of Altus at Martha, a small agricultural community on the road to Blair, Lynn Scalf manages the Farmers Cooperative and its gin.

“We have ginned 1,700 bales to date and we will probably finish the season with 3,000 bales ginned,” he said.

Like the other managers mentioned in this story, Scalf’s gin is processing cotton harvested from irrigated fields. Their customer base for cotton production runs all the way north to areas around Elk City and Sayre, north of I40, he said.

“All of this cotton was grown under irrigation,” he said.

Interestingly enough, in 2011, Scalf’s gin processed 3,100 bales of cotton. The Martha gin is running with a 10 man crew this season, he said.

America’s Farm Census is taken every five years, and that time is approaching again, said Wilbert Hundl, Jr., director of the Okla-homa field office of the USDA National Agricul-tural Statistics Service.

Census forms will be mailed to all U.S. farmers in late December; farmers are asked to fill out the form and return it by Feb. 4, 2013, he said. Hundl points out the importance of filling our the census form.

Without the information provided by past census reports, no one would know three million farmers and ranchers — one percent of the total U.S. population — provide feed, fuel and fiber to the rest of us, Hundl said. Data received from these census figures tell us U.S. agriculture is growing again.

The last census ex-plained more than two million farms and ranches exist on more than 922 million acres. That is nearly a 4 percent growth in the number of farms when compared to the 2002 farm census, he said.

More than two billion bushels of soybeans, 18 million bales of cotton and $37 billion in egg and poultry sales accrued from those farms.

Another interesting fact derived from the last census is more than one million women workers are working on farms and ranches, a 19 percent increase since 2002, he said.

Members of Congress use facts and statistics from the census when making decisions affecting important farm legislation.

For more information about the Farm Census, go to http://www.agcensus.us da.gov/ or call (800) 4AG-STAT (800-424-7828).