The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

Local News

October 9, 2007

Drought reduces cotton crop by 51 percent

The drought, which has affected all of Eastern North Carolina, is responsible for reducing Edgecombe County cotton crops by 51 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Edgecombe County Cooperative Extension Agent Art Bradley believes the loss will be extremely difficult for the farmers to recover from.

"Most of the farmers have insurance, in varying levels, which will cover the cost of some of the loss," Bradley said. "They will possibly get extra money this month because of the disaster status in 2005."

Bradley said this is the second year Edgecombe County farmers have had to deal with disaster. In 2006 Edgecombe County received more than 16 inches of rain by June, which severely damaged tobacco plants.

"We are historically a county for cotton production," Bradley said. "In years past we used to produce 11 million bales a year, but in recent years that number has decreased to approximately 5 million bales."

Bradley credits the reduction with less U.S. demand, since African countries have expanded cotton production and most of the world's cotton is exported to mills that have relocated to countries who have significantly lower labor costs.

"Other crops have higher prices with less money put into the production," Bradley said. "Therefore, we believe we will probably see even less cotton production next year, as farmers switch to corn and soybeans, which have gone up in value with the increased need for bio-diesel fuel and ethanol production."

According to the N.C. Department of Agriculture, in 2006 Edgecombe County was fourth in North Carolina cotton production.

In 2006, 52,400 acres were planted in Edgecombe County and 52,000 harvested with 713 pounds of cotton yielded per acre.

This year planted acres were reduced to 500,000 with acres for harvest down to 495,000 and the yield is forecast to be 611 pounds per acre.

"The amount of cotton produced by Edgecombe County is a supply and demand thing," Bradley said. "We will probably produce cotton as long as the demand is there."

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