More than one out of every 10 cotton acres in the country will give way to corn, soybeans, peanuts, and wheat this spring. According to USDA’s March 30 Prospective Plantings report
, cotton acres are forecast to drop to 13.155 million acres, down 11% from last year’s 14.7 million acres.
Pre-report estimates on cotton plantings ranged from 12.74 million to 13.2 million acres or more. A Thomson Reuters survey showed a range of 12.74 million to 12.76 million acres, while USDA economists at the 2012 Agricultural Outlook Forum pegged the crop at 13.2 million acres. Some economists’ estimates were even higher.
"I was thinking we would see a year-over-year decline in acreage more in the line of 5%, mainly because no one I talked to in the different regions of Texas thought there would be a big reduction in acreage," says John Robinson, agricultural economist with Texas A&M University. "I was expecting 7.2 million acres for Texas."
Texas, the largest cotton-producing state in the country, accounts for about half of all U.S. cotton acres. USDA’s plantings report put the state’s cotton acres at 6.8 million, a 10% decline from last year’s 7.6 million. "From the Lubbock area south to Midland, it’s been bone dry," Robinson says. "So I wasn’t expecting a cut in that region because in the worst possible conditions, producers will plant cotton and insure it." That region of Texas, referred to as NASS District 1, last year planted roughly 3 million acres of cotton, more than one-fifth of last year’s planted acres.
was down in every major cotton-producing state except two, Missouri and South Carolina, according to USDA’s Prospective Planting report. In Missouri, cotton acreage was flat. Only South Carolina producers say they intend to plant more cotton this year than last.
South Carolinians Buck Trend
"We knew with good weather coming early we were going to lose a lot of cotton acres in the Mid-South and Southeast," says Peter Schlee, cottonseed merchandiser and owner of APEX, Hamburg, N.Y. South Carolina’s large increase in cotton acres could be the result of producers returning to cotton after having bit on last year’s high corn prices, he says. South Carolina’s sandy, loamy soils have always favored cotton over other crops. South Carolina producers expect to plant 3%, or 10,000, fewer acres to corn.
Historically, USDA’s 2012 acreage estimate for cotton is strong even though it is substantially lower than last year’s 14.7 million acres. "It’s a pretty solid number," Schlee says. In 2010, U.S. growers planted less than 11 million acres to cotton and in 2009 they only planted 9.1 million acres. "Even with acreage down 11% from last year, we could have more cotton and more cottonseed this year if more acres are harvested," Schlee says.
Cotton has already been planted the Coastal Bend area and Rio Grande Valley in Texas as well as in parts of the deep South, but planting should ramp up substantially over the next few weeks.
With severe to extreme drought persisting in West Texas and Georgia, uncertainly over how many acres will actually be harvested this year will help support cotton prices
well into to summer, Robinson says. Georgia growers intend to plant 1.4 million acres to cotton this year, a 12% decline from last year’s 1.6 million acres. Georgia’s lost cotton acres will be planted mostly to wheat and peanuts, according to the report.