Related to last week’s entry on organic cotton fraud, I found a video called Two days in Texas [via] which describes current cotton production practices in the United States. The video is shot in Lubbock TX, aka the “silicone valley” of cotton production. The provenance of the film, at least as it relates to commercial interests is not transparent. I do not think I would be the only person to suspect the film may have been underwritten by Bayer Crop Sciences, the producers of Fibermax GMO cotton seed.
Some of the claims from cotton farmers are quite compelling. One claims he used to plant 25 pounds of cotton seed per acre but now uses only 6 pounds. Yields are also up. Previously, 3 bales an acre was considered excellent with 1.5 bales to be average but yields are up to 4 bales an acre. Intertwined with the yield discussion was the effect of improved watering technologies, specifically sub surface drip (that looked interesting!) but it wasn’t clear how much of the yield increase was due to improved watering and equipment technologies, nor how many acres had previously been dry farmed. Speaking of equipment, ditto for the 8 row harvesters (see Field trip to a cotton gin). Cotton farming employment continues to fall; one farmer said he used to have 30 people working for him but now only has one man.
I’m left with the impression of a gross contradiction; if cotton farming is so great now, with less expenditure of resources (less pesticide, less seed, less water, less labor) then how come 90% of cotton farmers have gotten out of it since the early 1980’s? One thing is certainly yields. Increased yields have depressed the price of cotton (prices have decreased steadily relative to inflation) which can be good and/or bad since this amounts to lower cost apparel but US cotton farmers enjoy subsidies courtesy of your tax dollars.
I looked for a rebuttal to the film but could not find one. If you have a source, please sing out. For now, I hope you will read a previous entry I wrote (Roundup: The birds and bees) about pesticides and GMO cotton seed.
My cotton farming series (more popular than you’d think):
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