Southwestern cotton farming will rebound with a nice growth spurt over the next
few years, the most recent national analysis suggests.
From the early ‘90s to mid-decade, national cotton production was running full bore,
jumping more than 11 percent. That pattern stopped in 2006, said Darren Hudson, lead
author of the new analysis and director of Texas Tech University's Cotton Economics Research Institute
“Earlier this decade, many farmers moved from a pure cotton monoculture to rotations
that included corn and soybeans, partly because of agronomic reasons but primarily
due to price movement,” Hudson said.
Reduced cotton acres ultimately meant lower cotton production. Average number of bales
processed per gin in the United States dropped from a high of 26,920 bales in 2006
to 17,453 in 2008.
researchers are now forecasting that while 4.6 million acres of cotton will go into
the ground here in the Southwest region this season, they’re predicting that number
should climb to 5.57 million acres by 2018.
The analysis uses data from the Texas Tech World Fiber Model
, a long-term series of projections founded on assumptions about normal weather patterns,
current trade policies, and stable economic fundamentals such as population and income
growth, and prices for crops in market competition with cotton.
“Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas will be leaders,” Hudson said. “We may not be near when
we were at 12 or 13 million acres nationally, but the Southwest region will still
be a dominant region.”
One reason for the change is a shift back to cotton from corn, partly because of the
price ratio, but also because of water use concerns. Farmers can still make a crop
on dryland with cotton, he said.
There’s also hope for other parts of the Cotton Belt, Hudson said. In some areas,
production might shift from peanuts to cotton.
Separately, the Texas Tech economists found that over the next 10-15 years, global
production will most likely begin to transition away from current production leaders.
China and India are large producers of cotton now, but have large and hungry populations
to feed .
“How can they rationalize using acres to produce an industrial crop when they need
food?” asked Hudson.
A plateau in ethanol production also will help in a transition back to cotton acreage.
Alternative crops like corn and soybeans still have high prices, but not nearly as
high as they once were relative to cotton. Farmers are transitioning back, Hudson
said, due primarily to fossil fuel prices and the fact that ethanol has lost much
of its market luster.
Key to cotton’s new growth will be domestic and international policy decisions. “Policy
will drive planting decisions more so than anything else,” he said.
CONTACT: Darren Hudson, director, Cotton Economics Research Institute, Texas Tech
(806) 742-1921 ext. 272 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Ed Hellman, professor of viticulture, Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas
(806) 746-6101 or email@example.com.