Survey Suggests Producers to Plant 8.11 Million Acres of Cotton

Randall Weiseman Alabama, Corn, Cotton, Florida, Georgia, Soybeans

NCCU.S. cotton producers intend to plant 8.11 million acres of cotton this spring, down 14 percent from 2008, according to the National Cotton Council’s 26th Annual Early Season Planting Intentions Survey.

Survey respondents through the Southeast indicated declining acreage, except for Florida at the expense of peanuts. Alabama reported the largest percentage reduction at 33 percent, followed by Virginia at 23 percent and Georgia at 17 percent. These three states’ survey responses showed shifts to both corn and soybeans. South Carolina and North Carolina plan cutbacks of 18 percent and 12 percent, respectively, as growers primarily shift to soybeans.

Upland cotton intentions are 7.97 million acres, a decrease of 14 percent from 2008. Extra long staple (ELS) intentions of 142,000 acres represent a 19 percent decline from 2008.

Assuming an average abandonment rate of 9.4 percent, total upland and ELS harvested area would be about 7.35 million acres. Applying state-level yield assumptions to projected harvested acres generates a cotton crop of 12.76 million bales, compared to 2008’s total production of 13.04 million bales. Assuming average seed-to-lint ratios, 2009 cottonseed production is projected at 4.35 million tons, down from 4.43 million last year.

The NCC survey was mailed in mid-December, 2008 to producers across the 17-state Cotton Belt. Survey responses were collected through mid-January.

Based on survey results, all four regions show intended upland cotton planting area decreases from last season. The West and Mid-South show the largest percentage drops of 31 and 23 percent, respectively. Smaller reduction of 18 and 9 percent are expected in the Southeast and Southwest, respectively. Only two states indicated upland expansion, Kansas at 7 percent and Florida at 3 percent.

NCC Senior Economist Dale Cougot emphasized that, “as growers look at expected returns when comparing prices for cotton against competing crops, they will be influenced by lower fuel and fertilizer costs along with agronomic considerations, such as crop rotation and weather conditions in Texas, California and parts of the Southeast. Growers will continue to monitor relative crop prices over the coming weeks. USDA’s latest grain estimates, showing an increase in stock levels, highlights another major influencing factor this year. Also, the ratio of crude oil at $45 per barrel to corn at $4 per bushel does not foretell profitable ethanol production.”

Results for all of the Mid-South states, except for Tennessee’s expected 4 percent decrease, signified sharp declines in the 25 percent range. The majority of growers’ intentions are to transfer to soybeans. The largest Mid-South state decreases were seen in Arkansas (-29 percent), Mississippi (-27 percent), Louisiana (-26 percent) and Missouri (-24 percent).

Texas growers expressed intentions of reducing area by 9 percent to 4.5 million acres. The other regions’ reductions of relatively more acreage implies Texas’ share of the total upland area is expanding, now more than 57 percent, up from 54 percent.

“This will entail a wider variance in abandonment acres as crop estimates are prepared for the season,” Cougot stated. He noted that only modest adjustments were in Kansas (+7 percent) and Oklahoma (-2 percent).

The Western region showed a projected 31 percent reduction. California upland planted area intentions presented losses of 55 percent — the largest percentage decline of all Cotton Belt states. This stems from ongoing concerns over water availability, and reflects some producers’ opting to change to specialty crops. Survey respondents also revealed that Arizona and New Mexico growers intend to decrease upland area by 7 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

Adjustments in the four states producing ELS cotton indicated mixed reviews with declines in California and New Mexico partially offset by gains in Arizona and Texas.