Weather wipes out half of West Texas' cotton acres

LUBBOCK, Texas - (AP) - Drought, hail and blowing sand have robbed the world's largest contiguous cotton-growing patch of 50 percent of its acreage this year.

Preliminary numbers released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that cotton producers in West Texas' South Plains are forecast to harvest 1.86 million acres, down from the 3.7 million they planted in the spring.

Producers in the region who lost acres this year continue to deal with a multi-year drought. Hail and blowing sand also forced producers to file insurance claims 

Texas is the nation's leading cotton-producing state and the South Plains region typically produces two-thirds of the state's cotton. The region is forecast to harvest 2.57 million bales of the state's 4.1 million.

Projections show production nationally at 12.5 million bales.

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