It was a topic that was on everybody’s mind, and no one was shy about discussing it. No, the crowd at the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show last month in Memphis, Tenn., wasn’t talking about gasoline prices or Washington politics. Instead, they were enthusiastically speculating about how higher cotton prices might affect planted acres in 2013. It had farmers, consultants, Extension personnel and anyone connected to the industry feeling cautiously hopeful.
After hearing non-stop reports since last fall about how cotton acreage would be lower in every region of the Belt in 2013, many producers were already on the bandwagon for grain crops. Those same producers must have felt there was no way that cotton could compete against attractive corn and soybean prices. However, something unusual started happening a couple of months ago. Cotton prices started a slow climb past the 80-cent mark and are now close to the 90-cent range on this date in late March.
Is this enough of a price hike to convince producers to make significant acreage switches to cotton? As you’ll see in our cover story on pages 12 and 13, it’s difficult to predict such a trend with any assurance. But, as Mississippi Extension cotton specialist Darrin Dodds and others point out, this is a promising start. And, because serious planting in the Mid-South probably won’t start until mid-April, producers in this region have the flexibility to wait until the last minute before making the switch to cotton.
After spending part of the day with Dodds in his office at Mississippi State University, it’s apparent that there are reasons for optimism about a slight cotton acreage increase in his state. No, it won’t be a dramatic uptick. But it will be enough to give farmers some choices as we look to the future. We received the same kind of reaction from Arkansas consultant Dale Wells and Arkansas ginner Maleisa Finch, and their comments are included in the main cover story. They also see better days ahead, but they realize that cotton’s total comeback won’t occur in just one season.
As long as corn and soybean prices remain at high levels, there won’t be any dramatic shifts away from these commodities. But it is encouraging that cotton might be making small steps toward regaining market share in the global arena. Whether it’s because of China’s unpredictable actions or other trends, we’ll take any kind of positive signal for cotton as a step in the right direction.
Let’s hope that these price levels continue to help cotton regain some acreage in the coming months and years. Another cotton comeback just might be in the works.
If you have comments, send them to: Editor, Cotton Farming Magazine, 1010 June Road, Suite 102, Memphis, Tenn., 38119. Or send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.