The impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Texas dairy industry should be minimal. However, dairy producers feeding cottonseed could likely see short-term impacts on availability and price, according to marketers contacted by Progressive Dairyman.

Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

There are few dairy farms in the region of Texas most directly impacted by Hurricane Harvey. According to an interactive website map managed by the Texas Association of Dairymen (TAD), of the 54 Texas counties initially designated as disaster areas, Washington County had three dairies.

The Texas Department of Agriculture’s State of Texas Agriculture Relief (STAR) Fund provides support to farmers needing disaster assistance. The STAR program accepts monetary donations from private individuals and companies, and may be used in rebuilding fences, restoring operations and paying for other agricultural disaster relief.

The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) has also set up a Harvey Hotline (512-719-0799) to accept calls from people looking to volunteer, donate, offer shelter for animals, or report live or dead animals.

Cottonseed impacted

In its crop production report released earlier this month, the USDA forecast the U.S. cottonseed harvest to hit 6.479 million tons, which would make it the largest cottonseed harvest since 2007. Hurricane Harvey may put a dent in that, however.


Texas is the largest cotton-producing state in the U.S. by a wide margin. During 2017, Texas was expected to produce about 43 percent of total U.S. production, according to John Newton, director of Market Intelligence with the American farm Bureau Federation.

Nigel Adcock, with Cottonseed LLC, said the Coastal Bend area of Texas was home to an estimated 300,000 acres of cotton this year, representing about 4.3 percent of the state’s total acreage, and about 5-7 percent of the annual cotton harvest in Texas. By the time Hurricane Harvey struck, nearly 98 percent of the area’s cotton had been harvested, although not all the cottonseed had been ginned.

“The majority of seed produced in that area either finds its way to an oil mill in Richmond, Texas, also affected by Harvey, or is shipped by rail car to the California dairy market,” Adcock said. “With the Union Pacific Railroad suspending operations into that area, there will be a short-term impact to the supply pipeline for those dairies, and delivered prices will in all likelihood spike.”

“While devastating for the immediate area, the overall impact on the total crop is not seen as something that will impact prices long term,” Adock said. 

Outside of Hurricane Harvey’s damaging force, Adcock said the area around Lubbock, where most of the Texas cotton crop is grown, saw timely and beneficial rains.

While the storm’s impact was adverse in South Texas, Wayne Larson, commodity trader with ADM Grain Company, said the cottonseed crop outside the region had not yet been impacted. However, if Harvey carried heavy rains further east and north, the outlook could change.

The full and lasting impact of Hurricane Harvey remains to be seen, AFBF’s Newton said. In making cotton harvest estimates, the USDA generally assumes an acreage abandonment level of about 8 percent.

“The storm surge and rainfall from Hurricane Harvey resulted in more than 40 inches of rain in some areas of Texas,” he said. “Following the excessive rainfall and high winds, crop conditions are likely to deteriorate. With expectations for poorer crop conditions, acreage abandonment could approach 5- to 10-year average levels of 16 percent, reducing the overall harvest.”

In addition to the weather and crop size concerns, another stress on cotton producers is the current price of cottonseed, Newton said. “As a benchmark, the Memphis North region is currently featuring a price around $200 per ton. This is compared with approximately $250 per ton a year ago, and a high of around $400 per ton set in 2013-14. Cottonseed, at these prices, will not pay a farmer's ginning fees. That means instead of the gin rebates seen in recent years, producers will get a bill for ginning costs at the end of the year. Ginning costs combined with potential crop losses could result in lower revenue for cotton producers.”  end mark 

Dave Natzke