Cotton Poised to Gain Ground in 2017

From Cotton Grower Magazine – January 2017



America’s cotton producers are indicating that they will plant significantly more cotton in 2017. Coming off a year that featured outstanding cotton yields in most regions, and in light of flagging competitive crop prices, U.S. cotton growers collectively stated that they will plant 10,887,075 acres of cotton in 2017, according to data culled from the annual Cotton Grower Acreage Survey.


If realized, that number would represent a nearly 8% increase over final planted acreage in 2016, according to USDA figures. Last year, American cotton producers planted just over 10.1 million acres. The 2017 Cotton Grower projection of 10,887,075 acres represents a robust rebound from the historically low 2015 acreage total of 8,581,000.

So what’s driving this remarkable rebound of nearly 2.5 million acres in only two years? According to many with intimate knowledge of the American cotton market, on-farm performance is a major factor.

“As a whole, Mid-South cotton yields were excellent during the 2016 season,” says Tyson Raper, Extension cotton specialist with the University of Tennessee. “The year was a relatively dry one with marginal corn yields and inconsistent soybean yields. With recent market shifts, it appears cotton may be one of the more profitable crops to grow on dryland acres within Tennessee during 2017.”

Mid-South Poised to Embrace Cotton

Others in the Mid-South region echoed Raper’s sentiments regarding recent success with high yields. According to an Extension source in Mississippi, growers in that state have rattled off five straight years of excellent yield numbers. Perhaps that’s why Mississippi is poised to see one of the largest acreage rebounds in the entire Cotton Belt in 2017. Growers in the Magnolia State planted 440,000 acres of cotton in 2016. According to research data, they are set to plant 622,000 in 2017.

All told, the Mid-South is set to plant 1.864 million acres of cotton in 2017, according to the survey. That is a full 360,000 added acres compared to the region’s 2016 total. Like in every region, growers indicated competitive crops’ flagging prices would only serve to make cotton more attractive in the coming planting season.

Texas Leads the Way

As has become routine, Texas will lead all states in cotton production by a wide margin, according to the survey. Growers in the Lone Star State indicated they will plant 5,932,500 acres of cotton in 2017. That number represents an increase of more than 200,000 acres over 2016, according to USDA data.

“Acres are going to cotton from grains due to very good cotton yields in 2016 and lower grain prices,” said one Extension source.

It appears that cotton’s only limiting factor in some parts of the state is arable land. Some in the state have suggested the High Plains are already operating at near max capacity when it comes to cotton.

Such is not the case, however, in Kansas. While many have predicted booming cotton increases there, Kansas respondents projected only moderate growth for next season – rising from 32,000 acres in 2016 to an estimated 35,000 in 2017. This projection seems especially conservative given that producers in Kansas averaged 1,099 pounds per acre in 2016 – a whopping 435 pounds higher than their five-year average, according to the USDA-NASS December Crop Production Report. Sources within the state indicate Dow’s Enlist trait, featuring tolerance to 2,4-D herbicides, has been a major benefit to cotton production.

Acreage Flat in Georgia

Georgia is set to remain the clear number two in terms of cotton production in the U.S., behind only Texas. But in spite of acreage increasing across the rest of the Cotton Belt next season, Georgia is poised to see its cotton acreage remain flat – or possibly even fall in 2017.

“Alternative crop prices (especially peanuts) will influence how much cotton acres will decline,” explained one Extension-based source. “Potentially, cotton acres could drop to 1 million, or perhaps even less.”

Elsewhere in the Southeast, North Carolina growers indicated that they will plant significantly more cotton in 2017 than they planted the year prior. In 2016, producers in the Tar Heel State planted 280,000 acres of cotton. According to the recent Cotton Grower survey, they plan to plant 350,000 acres of cotton in 2017.

Growers in Alabama, too, expect a moderate increase in cotton acres next season – up from 345,000 in 2016 to 360,000 in 2017. “Cotton prices are slightly better, and corn prices are low at the moment,” wrote one producer.

California Holds Steady

In the Far West, California will likely lead the region in acreage planted. Following a year which saw the state plant 221,000 acres of cotton, California growers indicated they would be slightly down in 2017 to a total of 195,150. As the nation’s leading producer of extra-long staple cotton, California is set to plant 136,605 acres of Pima in 2017, according to the survey. The state’s remaining upland acreage (nearly 60,000 acres) is heavily dependent on seed companies who produce seed cotton in California, according to an Extension source.

Still, conditions are bright for increased acreage in California in 2017, provided sufficient water resources are available.

“I would say that moderate insect pest pressure the past two years, moderate to higher yields and problems with prices or soil condition (salt buildup, in particular) for some competing crops might help out cotton acreage if there are water supplies available,” said one Extension source.

Arizona appears set to increase acreage in 2017, as growers have said they will plant 135,000 acres next season.