Stockton feels fortunate to have good water available for cattle. He caught one good rain last September that helped put a lot of water in his stock tanks. He hasn't had to haul water to cattle since Year 2000, and for that, he is thankful.
Drought never ended
Gaylon Morgan, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service state cotton specialist, College Station, says for much of Central and West Texas, the drought just never ended. Although not as severe as the historic record 2011 Texas drought and heat, the 2012 crop year was still mighty tough—extremely hot and dry over most of Texas.
Morgan says neighboring Oklahoma did not fare any better. In fact, Oklahoma only harvested only harvested 50% of its original planted acres in 2012.
The cotton specialist says he fully expects a big decrease in cotton plantings in 2013, as cotton will find it difficult to complete with more attractive grain crops, even if some rainfall returns.
Texas A&M University Regents Professor and Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon says El Nino, a warming of temperatures of the Pacific Ocean surface water—which typically means more rainfall—failed to live up to its earlier expectations and just fizzled out.
But La Nina, a cooling of ocean surface temperatures that largely resulted in that historic 2011 Texas exceptional drought and also dry conditions in 2012, may not be a big factor in 2013, either. Instead, he says the Tropics look neutral for 2013. Nielsen-Gammon says cotton growers and other producers shouldn't expect a return to a generally wet year, but more of a neutral growing season this year.
The noted climatologist says to keep in mind that other factors always could affect the weather—such as volcanic eruptions, dust in the atmosphere, ground cover or lack of it on land, and other forces. The Atlantic Ocean always has the potential to impact weather in the Cotton Belt too.
Nielsen-Gammon would like to forecast better news, but he says perhaps "neutral" Tropics is not such a bad thing, since the Tropical weather patterns had been hammering Texas and Southwest producers in recent drought-stricken years.
Farm Bill extension
As they rushed out of town with the New Year upon them, Congress took last-minute action to postpone the fiscal cliff with the American Taxpayer Relief Act, agriculture got to go along for the ride with HR 8 included as an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill.