A year ago in this space we were talking about the possibility of cotton making a serious comeback in 2010. All of the signals were pointing in that direction, and most of the industry was cautiously optimistic. In other words, everyone was trying to show some restraint. Just because economists said prices might improve and cotton acreage would increase, there was plenty of quiet skepticism.
One year later, who could have imagined how 2010 would turn out? It is still hard to fathom how so many events and economic trends would converge. But here we are in January of 2011 in a full-blown upturn for cotton. Prices continue to hover around the $1.40 and $1.50 level. Cotton acreage did indeed increase in 2010, and even more acres are projected to return in 2011. Meanwhile, producers are weighing their options (no pun intended) and trying to produce the right crop mix on their acreage. That’s how today’s savvy farmer takes advantage of high prices in all commodities.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that somebody had won the lottery. The optimism is prevalent no matter what part of the Belt you examine. For that reason, our staff decided to take another broad overview of this positive feeling for cotton. It all starts with one of the most dramatic photos we’ve ever had on the cover of this magazine. Our friend Randy Norton, Arizona Extension cotton specialist, shared this photo with us, and it exudes as much positive feeling as you could hope for from a spectacular cotton field in a mountain valley.
Our cover story on pages 12, 13 and 14 gives us a chance to hear from Georgia Extension economist Don Shurley (a frequent contributor to Cotton Farming), Texas producer Woody Anderson, California producer Ted Sheely and California Extension Farm Advisor Dan Munk. Each brings a different perspective, but there is agreement that this is a time for producers to make smart planting and marketing decisions. That’s the beauty of the U.S. cotton industry. Even if our frame of reference is different, there are still common denominators that bind us together.
Senior Writer Carroll Smith contacted Mississippi producer Kenneth Hood, Louisiana producer Wade Hargrave and Arkansas producer Steve Stevens to find out how Mid-South cotton production would fare in this new environment. Not surprisingly, each producer had a different strategy on whether he would increase his cotton acreage. It all hinged on the long-range stability of these high cotton prices and agronomic factors specific to their area. Again, it was a case of making a smart decision that takes into account the impact of high grain prices. Read her report on page 16.
Southeast Editor Amanda Huber talked to cotton leaders in her region such as Dusty Findley of the Southeastern Cotton Ginners and Richey Seaton of the Georgia Cotton Commission and explored another angle. Both are optimistic about long-range stability for cotton acreage in their region, but they stress the need for the industry to continue promoting U.S. cotton in the global market. They feel that is the key to building world demand. Amanda’s update is on page 18.
Finally, if you’re looking for unabashed positive affection for cotton, we suggest reading the Viewpoint editorial from Texas AgriLife economist Jackie Smith on page 40 and the My Turn column on page 50 from former Mississippi Extension cotton specialist Will McCarty. These two men have spent a lifetime in this industry, and their love for all things related to cotton is contagious. They don’t merely talk about cotton’s future in positive tones. They reflect a feeling that runs much deeper in a way that only cotton people could understand. Optimism for 2011? You’ll find it everywhere this month.
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