He has also worked hard to eliminate open ditches on the farm. Instead, water is moved to fields through underground pipes to minimize evaporation and erosion. “It’s just so much more efficient; we have a riser every 1,300 feet.”

Ray uses GPS on all tractors for more efficient field operations. He is starting some variable-rate applications of mixed fertilizer as well, through Jimmy Sanders. “We had a lot of areas in fields that didn’t need any fertilizer; it was cheaper to do variable-rate applications, plus we could do a better job.”

He says his cotton crop “can show a profit at 85 cents, provided input costs remain reasonable. But managing those costs is a constant struggle. “You get prices to a level you always wanted to reach, then you look at the bottom line, and it’s not enough. Fertilizer prices are already $100 a ton higher. But the Good Lord always takes care of us — He knows we can’t stand a lot of prosperity.”

A commitment from input and equipment companies to lower costs of production would help, Makamson says; “Otherwise, they’re going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. That’s the mindset of a lot of people who are going to grain — that they can’t afford to keep spending the money it takes for cotton. And that’s the big concern with cotton. Sometimes I wonder if we ought to go back to doing things the old-fashioned way, being happy with a bale and a half. But, it’s all relative.”

Ray plants primarily Deltapine cottons, along with some PhytoGen and Stoneville varieties. This season, a little over half his acreage was planted in DP 0912 B2RF.

He markets his cotton with Cargill, Staplcotn and Hal Williams at Mississippi Delta Cotton. He is on the board of directors for First Farm South Credit and Delta Oil Mill, is a managing partner in Greenwood Gin, a partner in a flying service, Ag Concepts, at Morgan City, Miss., and a partner in a local NAPA store.

His father, Lamar, recently retired from farming and Ray’s son-in-law, Justin Jeffcoat, has taken over the reins of that operation. “Justin worked for me for five or six years, and we helped him go off on his own. He’s really doing a good job, and I’m proud of him.”

While Ray depends on his forward-looking management style to stay a step ahead of potential problems on the farm, he says he doesn’t deserve all the praise for his success.

“I’ve been blessed in a lot of ways — a lot of times I feel like I need to give back more. To be able to do something I enjoy so much is a blessing. I have to give God all the credit.”

erobinson@farmpress.com