Farmers expecting good year for cotton

Farmers expecting good year for cotton

CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Farming is a big part of the economy in Northeast Arkansas and is often a gamble.

Farmers don't know exactly what to expect as they begin each year, but 2018 is shaping up to be a nice one.

Bob Grisham has been farming in Black Oak since 1955.

"I've seen a lot," he said of his years sowing seeds. "I've seen it from one end to the other."

He has lived through many successful harvests and some not as good ones.

"I was pretty well all cotton down through the years," Grisham said. "That was our money crop. There have been years where it's been good, there have been years where it's been real bad. So we just take it with a grain of salt and keep going."

Grisham can recall some of those hard times.

"The bottom fell out of cotton in, I guess, in the late '80s the best I can remember," he said. "Well, it fell out in 2000, the Asian crisis. It seems like it's always something."

A few years ago, the cotton prices plummeted again, causing many farmers to grow other crops to keep their businesses afloat.

"In the last two or three years we started trying to raise some corn, peanuts," Grisham said.

"We had a great increase of corn because the corn prices had gone up and soybeans and that's well suited to be grown on cotton ground," said Branon Thiesse, Staff Chair for the University of Arkansas Agriculture Extension Office in Craighead County.

Thiesse said many factors go into deciding how much of which crop a farmer plants on his land each year.

"The type of soil figures into that as well, but price definitely is one of the main driving factors for what type of crop farmers will plant," Thiesse said.

If cotton prices are up one year, that typically means a farmer will try to plant a lot of cotton the next year and hope the market holds steady.

Thiesse pointed out that cotton is important in Region 8 beyond just the farm.

There are multiple cotton gins operating in the area as well.

"When the cotton acres drop to a point that the gins start to close that hurts the local economy in some of these smaller towns and areas around them because a lot of people are employed by those gins," he said.

Grisham knows he isn't out of the woods yet for this year because Arkansas weather can change in an instant.

"We're a little bit scared right now because it's too good," Grisham said. "I remember 2014. On the 6th day of October a hail storm wiped all this out so yeah, there's a lot of things that can take place."

But as long as things hold together, Grisham believes this will be one of the best years they have seen for cotton.

"We managed to plant it early and it's going to come off early," he said. "They're telling us we're two to three weeks ahead of schedule."

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