From Cotton Grower Magazine – January 2015
With floundering cotton prices fresh on their minds, American cotton producers say they’ll reduce cotton acreage by more than 10 percent in the 2015 growing season. According to data culled from the annual Cotton Grower Acreage Survey, U.S. cotton farmers have indicated that they’ll plant 9.718 million acres of Upland and ELS cotton combined in the coming year.
According to USDA figures, American farmers planted 11.01 million acres of cotton in 2014, a significantly larger total than what growers now indicate they’ll plant in the coming growing season. If 9.718 million total acres holds true, it will represent the smallest crop that has been planted in the United States since 2009, when Americans planted 9.15 million acres of cotton. The 2015 projection is a far cry from the high water mark set in 2011 when American producers planted 14.735 million acres of cotton.
While cotton prices remained the most significant factor in driving acreage totals, there were several other key elements that growers took into account when answering this year’s survey. Many respondents indicated that acreage projections would be even lower if not for poor commodity prices for competing crops “across the board.” Existing cotton-specific infrastructure will also play a key role in propping up acreage through the Cotton Belt.
In much of the country, water shortages will impact cotton acreage both positively – in places like West Texas where growers switch out of water-dependent corn – and negatively – like farther west in California where landholders consider moving ground out of row crops altogether.
In keeping with recent trends, the state of Texas will lead the way in terms of acreage. Growers and Extension experts there indicated the state will plant over 5.4 million acres of cotton in 2015 – well over half of the total for the entire 17-state Cotton Belt. While the projected total is down significantly from the state’s 2014 total of 6.2 million acres, experts say there are agronomic factors keeping acreage in cotton.
“If it were not for the Sugarcane Aphid infesting sorghum acres in the South, East and Rolling Plains, I would expect a double digit drop in cotton acres in these regions,” said one survey respondent. “However, with Sugarcane Aphid being on producers’ minds, I think the cotton acres will remain within 10 percent of 2014 levels.”
As in most years, respondents to the Cotton Grower Acreage Survey indicated that water and prices will be the main driving factors in determining acreage across Texas.
In the Southeast, cotton growers indicated that they will reduce cotton acreage from their 2014 totals, although the net loss is smaller than many might have guessed. Georgia will once again lead the charge in terms of acres planted, as growers there indicated they will plant just over 1.2 million acres of cotton in 2015. This represents a slight decrease from the 1.38 million acres Georgia cotton producers planted in 2014.
“I expect a slight decrease in acres due to prices,” said one Georgia survey respondent. “On the other hand, cotton is a dryland alternative and will be planted. Also, our growers have capacity needs in place for cotton.”
As in years past, cotton will retain acres throughout Georgia due to its rotational benefits with the state’s sizable peanut crop.
North Carolina is poised to plant the third most cotton acres in 2015 behind Texas and Georgia, respectively. Growers there intend to plant 403,750 acres of cotton, according to survey respondents. On the whole, states in the Southeast will contribute 25 percent of the entire U.S. crop in 2015.