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Cottonseed markets brace for Hurricane Florence

Progressive Dairyman Editor Dave Natzke Published on 13 September 2018

The threat of Hurricane Florence is raising concerns regarding North Carolina’s cotton crop. For dairy farmers, that translates into what impact the storm will have on cottonseed supplies and prices.

As of Thursday morning, Sept. 13, the storm had been downgraded to a Category 2 and was expected to reach the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina overnight or Friday.

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Most of the major damage from a hurricane is felt on the northern edge of the storm, and North Carolina’s major cotton-growing areas will feel the full brunt of Florence, according to Nigel Adcock with Cottonseed LLC. Of the 17 major cotton-producing states, North Carolina ranks seventh in terms of acreage.

The concern with this slow-moving storm is that 19 to 21 inches of rain could fall on those cotton regions. Eastern-most gins and other coastal areas will be unable to shed any of that water from fields due to their flatness and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.

In this week’s USDA National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) crop progress report, released prior to the onset of the storm, nearly two-thirds of North Carolina’s cotton crop had been rated good to excellent. And, about 43 percent of the crop’s cotton bolls were open, well ahead of the 2013-17 average. It is unlikely any of this cotton will be salvageable if the current storm predictions remain in place, Adcock said.

“We expect significant loss to a large portion of the North Carolina crop,” Adcock said. “The majority of the seed harvested in this area ends up either being exported or finds its way into New York, Pennsylvania or Ohio. It’s possible with a reduced supply that prices may be impacted for dairies in those areas who intend to feed cottonseed as part of their ration.”

Cottonseed bids and offers for Cordele South, South Carolina, Kinston North and Rocky Mount have been pulled until the storm has passed. The mid-South also has very few bids and offers to report so far this week, as traders wait to see the outcomes from Hurricane Florence and how it may impact the spreads between the markets.

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Outside of the Carolinas, Tropical Storm Gordon’s track over the cotton-growing areas of northeast Arkansas and western Tennessee last week caused little or no damage, “other than to push back defoliation by seven to 10 days,” Adcock said. The added moisture was also welcomed by growers with later planted fields.

Overall, the U.S. cotton crop condition prior to Hurricane Florence remained little changed from the previous week: 44 percent of the crop remains in poor or very poor condition, while 38 percent is in good or excellent condition.

There was better news in the USDA’s September Crop Production report, although the estimates were prepared prior to Hurricane Florence. The USDA raised cottonseed harvest projections to 6.156 million tons, up 135,000 tons from August’s outlook.

North Carolina produced an estimated 217,000 tons of cottonseed in 2017. Depending on storm-related losses, the 2018 U.S. cottonseed harvest still has the potential to be the second-largest this decade.  end mark

Dave Natzke
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