“For three years, when the cotton price dropped so much and grain prices were coming on strong, we were out of cotton. The economics were so much better for beans and corn, and yields were good for both — 50 bushels plus for soybeans and 145 to 150 bushels for corn, both dryland.

“Even though we hadn’t been growing grains, we had been doing custom combining for other people, so we already had the equipment and the switch to grains was easier for us than for those who’d been all cotton.”

Like many growers, he took a major hit with soybeans in rain-plagued 2009.

“I managed to cut about 100 acres of beans before the fall rains set in, and was getting 60 bushels plus. When I finally got back in to cut the rest, they averaged 15 bushels and I had to haul them all to salvage. That kind of situation really hurts.”

Oliver says his present rotational program of cotton and corn works particularly well, and with the strong price outlook for cotton this year, he felt costs vs. returns were better than for soybeans.

This year, he has 1,500 acres of cotton and 1,350 acres of corn. The sandy loam soils, mostly bottomland fields along Hayes Creek, are consistently productive, given that he can’t irrigate.

“Cotton this year is predominantly Stoneville 5458 and 0912, but I have about 100 acres of Deltapine 1137, some Deltapine 0912, and some Stoneville 4288,” Oliver says. “All are Roundup Ready, Flex, Bt varieties.

“Last year was my first year back in cotton and the 5458 and 0912 varieties performed really well. I had 500 acres and averaged better than 1,200 pounds, which is good for dryland cotton here in the hills.”

 “Last year, I sold about 300 bales at 72 cents and then started selling again at 90 cents. On some cotton that I didn’t have booked, I got $1 or better — something I never thought I’d see. This year, I’ve got a bale per acre booked at $1.10 to $1.15 and I’m hoping to have another bale or so to sell over and above that.”