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Wet Weather Poses Problem For Cotton Farmers

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WILSON, N.C. — Cotton is the No. 6 farm commodity in the state. It trails only farm giants like hogs and tobacco.

Although the drought-parched fields filled with tobacco and corn cotton did a little better until the rains came, the wet weather was not a good sight for cottom farmers, who saw the rain shrink the crop.

By this time of year, almost all of the cotton crop should be in. But the summer heat hurt the bolls, and the autumn rain is hurting the harvest.

"Back in 1999, after Hurricane Floyd, the cotton crop was actually harvested after the hurricane, " said cotton farmer Pender Sharp, "and it yielded more than this year's crop is making."

Here's the problem. The plants made less of the white stuff because it was so dry this summer. Now that it's time to pick what did survive, the bolls are too wet.

Each of the plants has to be completely dry before it can be picked. That's why farmers do the picking in the afternoon and early evening. Pick one of the plants too soon, when it's wet in the middle, and the seeds will actually sprout and ruin the crop.

Many farmers will lose about $200 an acre on this year's cotton crop. Factor in all the costs of planting it, and some farmers won't even break even.

Fifty-eight of North Carolina's 100 counties are classified as primary disaster areas, including every county in the WRAL viewing area except for Sampson and Edgecombe. Farmers there are eligible for assistance.

"We've harvested cotton one day in the last three weeks," Sharp said. "The bad crop that we have in the field right now we can't get out of the field."

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