Issue: Cotton harvest
Local impact: The crop was good this year and good for the local economy.

RUNNELS COUNTY - For some areas of Runnels County, the cotton was high, and in others not so much, but overall, the 2017-18 harvest has been a good one in terms of yield and price.

First, there were more acres planted than last year in Runnels County according to Daniel Lange, executive director of the Farm Service Agency.

Last year there were 59,500 acres of cotton planted and this year, a total of 86,000 acres were planted.

“It was an above average year for cotton,” Lange said adding that lower wheat prices prompted producers to plant significantly more cotton in Runnels County.

“Overall the crop is bigger and included more acres,” said Karin Kuykendahl, executive director of the Southern Rolling Plains Cotton Growers Association.

But as in years past, the crop depends heavily on the weather. Early rains were good for the crop, but a hot dry summer could have turned the crop either way.

“August tends to make or break us and the rains kind of cooled things off some,” Kuykendahl said.

This year, rains in August cooled things off. But the rains were spotty, with ample amounts falling in northern and western regions of Runnels County and very little in the southern regions.

Chad Halfmann who with his brother Cody farms acreage near Miles, said their yields were great on the acreage near Miles but the results were poor for the acreage near Olfen. Halfmann reported exceptional yields and good quality of the cotton in west Runnels County where he averaged two bales an acre, which made up for the poor yields and quality in their acreage in the southern region of the county near Olfen where the yield was ¾ of a bale per acre.

“There's years like this year that you're happy to get one bale an acre and we are getting more than that (near Miles),” Halfmann said. “But there was a drought in Olfen.”

Halfmann said he and his brother are about finished with the harvest.

“We have about 30 acres left to go,” he said.

The Halfmanns are members of the Miles Cooperative Gin in Miles. Manager Ron Niehues said the harvest is about 85 percent complete and they are currently ginning around the clock.

“There are a few that are still harvesting,” Niehues said. “We will probably be ginning through January and into early February.”

Last year, 46,008 bales were ginned at the Miles Coop Gin and this year, Niehues expects to gin around 36,000.

According to the Southern Rolling Plains Cotton Growers Association, in the 2016-17 harvest year, the Highway 67 Gin (formerly known as Kasberg Gin) ginned 60,716 bales, a total of 2,538 bales were ginned in Norton; 24,900 bales were ginned in Wingate; 9,300 bales were ginned at the Elm Creek Gin in Ballinger, 65,187 bales were ginned in Mereta and Wall had the largest total bales ginned with 72,035 bales.

Kuykendahl said that in the SRPCGA region, in 2016-17 there were 275,000 bales throughout the region and this year that 280,000 bales will be harvested.

“For West Texas and the quality report the cotton looks really good,” she said. “As a region it is good - the vast majority of the crop is good.”