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Kiowa County cotton farmer looks forward to 2020 harvest

Hannah Brown/Kiowa County Signal
Pratt Tribune
Ballard Farms in Kiowa County had a good cotton harvest last year (as pictured), and look forward to another good year as the 2020 cotton crop nears maturity.

Matt Ballard raised cotton in the northern part of Kiowa County and he and his crew are gearing up for cotton harvest 2020 to begin. So far crop predictions are looking good and Ballard said he is happy with how the crop is progressing.

“This year’s cotton crop looks really good for the most part,” he said. 

Ballard planted around 840 acres of cotton this year, which is the same amount he has planted in the last two years. Ballard said he chose to start farming cotton because it is a good cash flow crop during an era when many farmers have been facing an extremely low net farm income.

“I chose to start raising cotton because there wasn’t  another crop that I could cash flow my operation with,” said Ballard. 

This year, cotton is projected to sell for about 55 cents per pound, which is a relatively low price. Even with the lower price, the potential yields for Ballard’s cotton crop will make it more profitable than other dry land crops grown in the area. 

Kiowa County is also  known for wheat production, along with corn, milo, soybeans, alfalfa and forages.

Ballard said his crew of seven will be ready to start picking cotton in about a month. It takes seven people to make harvest run smoothly. Most operations use stripper balers, which only take one person to operate, but come with a hefty price tag of around $750,000. The Ballards run older style equipment, using two strippers, two tractors with boll buggies, and three module builders. 

The Ballard family has farmed in the Haviland area for over 100 years. Matt and his wife, Kami, have three children and live in Haviland. Kami teaches 4th grade at Kiowa County Schools.

Cotton harvest typcially starts mid to late October in Kiowa County. At this time the cotton bolls are just visible, beginning to open up, and the plants have some drying off to do yet.

Kansas is one of 15 states that produced 99 percent of the nation’s cotton in 2019. 

On September 20, 2020, 40 percent of cotton bolls in Kansas were in the open stage, according to statistics from the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service.