Cotton Crops Causing Cash Crunch

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

GAINES COUNTY - High price tags, plant disease, and less rain means there's less cotton to pick in Gaines County. It's been a hard year for farmers. Prices continue to rise - some of the highest ever.

"Everybody is a little nervous," Gaines County Farmer, Shelby Elam, said. "It's just the exorbitant cost, we're having to pay for our inputs."

The fertilizer, water, fuel, and insecticide is all adding up to big problems for Gaines County farmers. In fact, area farmers are shelling out three times what they were last year.

"The things I'm buying are going up and what I'm selling continue to stay the same or go down a little bit," Elam said. "Our margin for profit has become much smaller. I am working harder - I know I am. It's the stress and worry, and the profit margin is so small."

The Texas Agrilife Extension Agency tells NewsWest 9, the pains are felt far and wide. Over 200,000 acres in Gaines County are nothing but cotton fields.

"If at the end of the year their crop only brings so much money, then they have a chance of going out of business due to not being able to make a profit," Manda Cattaneo with the Texas Agrilife Extension Agency, said.

Not only is the cost of production way up, but this year farmers are battling a microscopic organism that's eating away at the root.

"They cause a knotting or gnarling of the roots," Elam said. "Plants can't take up moisture and nutrients and they'll be stunted and small and just won't produce much."

And unlike other U.S. farmers, the sandy West Texas soil doesn't hold a high promise for anything other than peanuts, cotton, and wheat.

"There are always farmers going out of business," Cattaneo said. "It's a tough job. It's a gamble. You never know what's going to happen."

They say farmers are eternal optimists and the future looks bright.

"This country, I've been here a long long time, we'll survive," Elam said.