That’s two 15 percent increases in a row for U.S. cotton acres. According to USDA’s March 31 Prospective Plantings report, U.S. cotton producers intend to plant 12.6 million acres in 2011, which if realized, would be a 15 percent increase over the 10.9 million planted in 2010.

The increase is due to historically high cotton prices and the potential for increased returns versus corn and soybeans. The acreage estimate still fell short of what many traders were expecting, which will likely lend support to prices.

Upland cotton acreage is expected to total 12.3 million acres, up 14 percent from last year while American-Pima cotton acreage is expected to total 252,000 acres, up 24 percent from 2010.

Growers intend to increase planted area in all states, according to the survey. The largest increase, at 548,000 acres, is expected in Texas, where growers intend to plant 6.1 million acres. Acreage increases of more than 100,000 acres are expected in North Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi. Georgia cotton producers say they’ll plant 1.45 million acres of cotton this year.