What is in this article?:
- Cotton losing Delta ground to corn.
- Producer John Hall explains the impacts on his area of East Arkansas.
- History of two crops in the region.
CYPERT, ARKANSAS, PRODUCER John Hall has watched his area of the Delta move big into corn. “Being in business means you have to go where the dollars are. There isn’t much room to be sentimental.”
Thick, golden wheat currently dominates farmland on the short, flat stretch between east Arkansas’ Marvell south to Cypert. It is much the same throughout the Delta and John Hall, sitting at a table in his shop, says harvesting would be in full swing if not for frequent rains.
Hall, a veteran producer, is optimistic about wheat yields this year -- but wheat isn’t the grain causing profound changes in the area. Over the last few years, corn has largely taken over and cotton acreage has taken a tumble. A sign of times: the Goodluck Gin, just down the road, has been shuttered for the first time since 1973. There isn’t enough cotton to justify keeping it open.
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“We tried to hold on with the decision as long as possible,” Hall explains. “I thought farmers might shift back to cotton when the wet weather was so difficult in April. But it became apparent that farmers, if they couldn’t plant corn, would be going with soybeans over cotton.”
One area cotton producer “sold all his cotton equipment and planted corn. We were left with maybe 1,700 to 1,800 acres of cotton in this area, total. That wouldn’t have been enough to keep the gin open.
“It isn’t for a lack of trying or understanding the situation. Being in business means you have to go where the dollars are. There isn’t much room to be sentimental.
“For the gin, we had to pay insurance, the workers’ compensation and all the rest. That bill was coming due at the first of May. Well, we didn’t want to spend $75,000 while we’re staring at a lack of cotton – even though we have good, two-bale yields -- to pay for it.”
The board decided to close for 2013 and see how things work out. “We’re not walking away from the gin – we’re just taking a break for a year to see what develops in 2014. The gin hasn’t been taken apart and we’ve still got a man overseeing things and keeping things clean and working.”
The turn to favoring corn has been rapid.
“We hit peak cotton acreage about five years ago,” says Hall. “In the three gins around here, we ginned about 150,000 bales. Then, that total dropped to 100,000 bales and it kept moving down every year.”
In the last two years, Goodluck ginned less than 10,000 bales.
Of the three area gins – Hall describes them as a “triangle” – only one will be open this fall. There is “no doubt at all,” he says, that the reason is corn.