Corn, which is being harvested this month, is at an all time high, while cotton, which is reaping extremely low prices, may not exist in Morehouse Parish this time next year.
“Cotton might not be here next year if grain continues to bring in more money,” predicted LSU Ag Center County Ag Agent Terry Erwin.
Erwin said cotton is selling at 60 cents a pound while soybean is bringing in $16 a bushel. Corn is $8 a bushel.
“Both corn and soybeans are at an historical high,” he said. “You'd have to go back a long time ago to find them that high.”
Erwin said approximately 75,000 acres of corn are being harvested this month in Morehouse Parish. Seventy-two thousand acres of soybean will be harvested at the end of August and throughout September.
“Only 5,000 acres of cotton exist in Morehouse Parish and they'll be harvested in the middle of September and through the middle of October,” he said.
The general manager of Jones Producers Gin, Jeff Churchwell, said he remembers when cotton flourished in Morehouse.
“When I had just gotten out of college in 1990, and was new in the ag industry, there were 103,000 acres of cotton in Morehouse Parish,” he said. “For cotton to come back, corn and soybean prices will have to go down.”
Erwin agreed the prices of grain crops is playing a major role in what farmers are growing.
“It's all market driven, which means it's what farmers can make the most money on,” he said. “The way the world is right now, grain prices have skyrocketed.”
Mer Rouge Mayor Johnny McAdams is also the Mid-South Cotton manager for Noble Americas Corporation Cotton Division. McAdams said the United States as a whole “can not compete in world markets [in cotton] with all the government restrictions and cheap labor [in other countries.]”
McAdams said it takes 24 to 25 million bales of cotton per year in finished goods to meet the U.S. demand.
“Currently our total domestic consumption is 3.8 million bales [being spun by U.S. mills],” he said. “Textile jobs have left the United States.”
McAdams said because we're having to “deal with foreign mills, cotton prices have suffered.”
“In China they're getting $615 per bale of cotton. The United States cotton farmer is getting $3.50 a bale,” he said. “We're on an uneven playing field.”
Although the future of cotton looks narrow in Morehouse, Erwin said it may not be that way forever.
“It's certainly a historical marker [that cotton is greatly down,] but there could be opportunities for people to grow more in the future,” he said.
Churchwell agreed that there's always a chance cotton could make a comeback.
“It's sad to think that it might be going away, but it's not going away forever,” he said. “Corn and soybean prices could drop.”
McAdams also sees “a little light at the end of the tunnel.”
“Foreign growers are eventually going to have to start growing less cotton and more grain. Everything goes in a circle, you see,” he said. “There is still some eternal optimist inside me.”