If I Have Heard It Once, I’ve Heard It a Hundred Times

Considering that I’m an editor at a cotton publication, I sure hear a whole lot about corn. Since late last year, rumors have circulated that a lot of cotton producers would plant more corn in 2007. I say rumors, but really that’s just a euphemism for a fact that no one wanted to admit. You really can’t call it a rumor if it’s true.

Chad Russell
Chad Russell Farms,
Marianna, Ark

I am going to grow 1,200 acres of cotton and not any corn.
The reason I am staying with cotton is the investment in the equipment. I really can’t justify making the change for possibly one year. I am not set up to harvest any grain, and I would have to park some stuff and buy some stuff or do some custom hiring.
I feel like there is a lot of risk in growing corn. The major risk for me, especially around here, is going to be getting it in the elevator – I think that is going to be a major problem. And then there is also the aflatoxin issue, which I don’t know if that is going to be a problem or not. It has only happened once that I can remember, but that is definitely something negative for me.
Another big thing is that I just think we are really good at growing cotton, compared to other crops. The yields are the only things that are sustaining us anyway. I am growing all Delta and Pine Land varieties, 444 and 445, and with the yields I can make on cotton, I still think I can compare pretty good to corn, even at $4.00.
I think eventually the price of cotton will have to move up, but I will be very surprised if it happens this year – it hasn’t shown any sign of it right now.

In January, our annual acreage survey predicted that cotton would be down significantly, and last month the National Cotton Council’s planting intentions were released, predicting that 13.2 million acres would be planted. That’s down almost 14% from 2006.

In some areas, 14% might be a blessing. Acreage could be down as much as 25%, and even more in some states.

So what’s the deal? We all know the answer – corn, and in a big way.

The way I hear people talk, it’s like they were all standing around at cotton’s funeral. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First things first, cotton’s situation isn’t really that bad. Just a few years ago, we had back-to-back plantings around 13.5 million acres, followed by a couple big years. From year to year, acreage is going to go up, and it is going to go down. It seems to me that a bigger concern is that we sell the cotton we have warehoused, and fewer acres in 2007, along with an uptick in Asia’s consumption, could alleviate that.

More importantly, all is not lost for cotton. Many producers may rotate corn for a year, maybe two, but there are some producers who say their sticking to their guns. For them, cotton is a profitable crop, a crop they know how to grow.

With all the talk about corn, it was nice to hear from a grower who is not jumping on the bandwagon, or should I say combine. For all the great things I hear about corn, and admittedly price is a huge advantage this year, there are some hurdles to jump. Many growers don’t have the infrastructure to grow corn, and if they do, the country could be at capacity to store. Building more storage facilities for a couple bumper crops might not be the answer. Furthermore, cotton producers know how to grow cotton; jumping to another crop could spell trouble. But enough from me, and all the naysayers out there. Take it from a cotton grower who’s sticking to what he knows …

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