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Hurricanes Take Toll On SE Cotton Crop

The rash of hurricanes that hit the Southeast this season has brought significant losses to cotton growers in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. With four of the megastorms making landfall within a six-week period, growers in the affected areas found themselves reeling from the multiple impacts, and many are facing losses of as much as 50 percent or more of their total crop, according to a report from the Memphis, Tenn.-based National Cotton Council (NCC).

Preliminary estimates put hurricane-related losses at approximately 750,000 bales worth more than $205 million. Georgia growers have fared the worst, losing more than 400,000 bales valued at $112 million. Alabama growers lost approximately 275,000 bales pegged at $77 million, and Florida growers took a $17 million hit from a 60,000-bale loss. The estimates do not reflect anticipated losses resulting from quality discounts on any harvested cotton.

"These losses will not significantly affect the US cotton industry overall, according to Steve Slinsky, senior economist, NCC. While there is a very large impact on revenue for the affected growers, there have been positive reports from outside the Southeast in terms of yield and quality. Overall, a record yield of 21.5 million bales is projected for this year, despite the estimated losses from the storms," he said, adding that so far, there has been no impact on cotton prices at the national level.

Growers will be eligible for disaster relief as provided in the Senate's recently passed Homeland Security Appropriations bill. However, Slinsky said, some losses may fall below the threshold of eligibility, and growers likely wont get as much relief as hoped for. For some, it may take years to get over the financial losses, and their communities also will be affected, he said. But farmers are eternal optimists despite times of disaster, and they are risk-takers by nature. Certain things may be outside their control, but they also have risk management tools to help them recover from these situations.

November 2004