Drought Hurts Crossroads Cotton Yeld

Tyler Koehn, 18, of Port Lavaca, harvests cotton with a John Deere CP 690. Koehn works for Crossroads farmer Danny May.

Crossroads farms received more than $1 million from the subsidy payments by a Trump administration program designed to help farmers cope with the impacts of the trade war with China.

The Market Facilitation Program has distributed more than $8.5 billion in direct payments to farmers since last fall.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data made available by the Associated Press, Jackson County received the most in the Crossroads.

The five farms that received the most subsidy money were cotton farmers. In Texas, cotton was the commodity with the most payments.

Jeff Nunley, executive director of the South Texas Cotton and Grain Association, said this is because China is a major market for cotton.

“The cotton farmers here, like everywhere, lost a significant part of their market,” Nunley said.

Before the trade war, Nunley said, cotton sales per pound started at about 80 cents per pound. Now, they’re about 65 to 70 cents per pound.

The Market Facilitation Program is a $12-billion aid package for farmers struggling under the financial strain of the trade disputes with China and other countries.

May 23, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a second Market Facilitation Program to assist farmers. The second wave authorized USDA to provide up to $16 billion in relief to match estimated impacts of the retaliatory tariffs and their effects on U.S. agricultural goods.

Even so, Nunley doesn’t think it’ll be enough.

“It will help but I don’t think it’ll be able to make up for what’s lost in the market,” Nunley said. “Hopefully this will help them weather the storm.”

Matt Huie, a farmer and rancher from Beeville, testified May 9 in front of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management for a hearing on the state of the farm economy.

“The farm economy in the Coastal Bend of Texas is lousy,” Huie said in the hearing.

Difficulties in production during 2018 were compounded by the trade war, Huie said, despite what he said was a great Market Facilitation Program.

“It only paid on production,” Huie said. “If you didn’t have production it did not pay. I’m hopeful that can be addressed.”

Additionally, Huie said it drove the price of crop insurance down, eroding its safety net.

During the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Filemon Vela, of Texas cited a USDA statistic that inflation adjusted farm debt is the highest it has been since 1980.

“I didn’t live through the 80’s, (but) I did live through the 90’s,” Huie said. “It was miserable, but I was so young I didn’t know better.”

Now, Nunley said, conditions are set for the worst farm economy since that time.

“If Washington doesn’t react, we’re set to have a farm crisis like we did in the 80’s,” Nunley said.

Morgan is the business reporter for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at (361) 580-6328, mohanlon@vicad.com or @mcohanlon.

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