Projected cotton acreage up this year


Planted cotton acreage will be up pretty much everywhere, according to just-released estimates.

A survey from the National Cotton Council indicates producers will plant 11.26 million cotton acres nationwide this spring, up 8.2 percent from 2013. That total includes 6.5 million Texas acres, a 12.2 percent increase from last year.

“I’m not going to say we’re in good shape, but it’s better than previous years,” said Kelly Kettner, a Muleshoe producer who plans to plant about 1,000 cotton acres in a few months.

The High Plains area will probably plant about 4 million cotton acres in 2014, up from 3.8 million last year, said Mary Jane Buerkle, communications director for Plains Cotton Growers.

While not completely recovered from drought, some fields could see a boost in soil quality following snow and ice this winter.

“All the precipitation we’ve been getting is definitely helping the 2014 crop,” Buerkle said. “It’s been good to get some of this precipitation over the last few months because it does set us up well going into 2014 when it comes to soil moisture.”

But few farmers are predicting a record-breaking crop for 2014.

“We need to get some rain before I can get very optimistic on this year,” said Dan Smith, who grows cotton near Lockney. “We’re extremely dry.”

Smith and Kettner both said they plan to plant about the same number of acres as last year.

Kettner noted that cotton prices are down, much like other commodities. That means earning a profit will actually require a better-than-average crop — and the precipitation that can get it that way.

“Our moisture situation is OK,” he said. “Coming into this crop year — especially with prices being a little lower — we need every drop we can get from Mother Nature.”

The cotton council’s acreage estimates are based on a survey of U.S. cotton producers. However, it’s rarely seen as a perfect way to estimate the fall harvest. A high number of planted acres does not always mean a large number of harvested ones. Weather and insect pressure likely will affect the crop, although it’s still difficult to determine by how much.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to avoid severe weather and hold onto whatever we plant,” Buerkle said. “We certainly are in need of a good crop for our industry.”