Report: Cotton acreage down nationally

Report: Cotton acreage down nationally

Posted: Tuesday, July 1, 2008 8:46 pm

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — U.S. cotton acreage has hit its lowest level in 25 years as farmers have continued to shift acres to higher-priced corn and soybeans. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in a report released Monday, estimated total cotton acreage at 9.25 million acres, down from 10.8 million acres last year and the lowest level since farmers seeded 7.9 million acres in 1983. “Farmers are like everybody else. They operate on supply and demand and prices,” said Shiela Corley, a cotton statistician with the department. “The demand is there for corn and soybeans.” For cotton to be competitive, price-wise, with those crops, the price would have to top $1 a pound, said Jess Barr, executive vice president of the Louisiana Cotton Producers Association. Late Monday morning, the December futures price was under 80 cents a pound. Just two states, Oklahoma and Virginia, planted more cotton this year that last, according to USDA. The largest percentage declines were reported in California and Mississippi; acreage in Georgia dipped below 1 million for the first time since 1994. Those three states have been among the nation’s top cotton producers. In Tennessee, farmers planted only 300,000 acres this year compared to 515,000 acres in 2007, a drop of more than 40 percent. One of the big concerns is that of infrastructure. In Louisiana, where acreage has been in free-fall since 2006, two gins did not open last year, and it’s likely another four won’t open this year, Barr said. In Mississippi, the number of gins dropped from 89 to 80 in 2007 and will drop further, said Justin Ferguson, commodity coordinator for cotton and rice for the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation. “It will be very challenging to reopen many of these gins three years from now, depending upon the age of the equipment,” Ferguson said, adding that it takes an “overwhelming” amount of capital to maintain the equipment. “We are very concerned about the overall ginning infrastructure when cotton acres return,” he said. Published in The Messenger 7.1.08

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