Acreages are expected to decline in each of the growing regions – 18.5 percent in the Southeast, 24.4 percent in the Southwest and 12.2 percent in the West – but the 50.6 percent drop expected in the Mid-South is the most startling.

In the Southeast, growers in Alabama are expected to plant 320,000 acres, down from 380,000 in 2012; Florida, 103,000, down from 108,000; Georgia, 1.09 million acres, down from 1.29 million; North Carolina, 398,000, down from 585,000; South Carolina, 265,000, down from 299,000; and Virginia, 62,000, down from 86,000.

Assuming slightly above-average abandonment in the Southwest region due to the dry conditions and all other states set at historical averages, the survey indicates total upland and ELS harvested area would be 7.65 million acres, 15.2 percent below planted area. Applying state-level yield assumptions to projected harvested acres generates a cotton crop of 12.86 million bales, compared with 2012’s total production of 17.01 million bales.

“Planted acreage is just one variable determining final production,” Adam notes. “Weather is often a more significant determinant, particularly weather developments in the southwestern U.S. With this in mind, we could see the U.S. crop ranging from a low of 9.5 million bales to a high of 17.0 million bales. ”

Survey responses said that corn accounts for slightly more than half of the planned decline. Soybeans account for the remainder of the decline in acres, with many of the soybeans being double-cropped with wheat. 

“Based on USDA costs of production and trend yields, the shortfall between cotton net returns and returns for corn and soybeans is substantially larger than in 2009 – the most recent low in acreage,” noted Adams, who presented the survey results at the opening of the Council’s committee meetings.

In the Mid-South, growers are expected to reduce their acres in half from the 2.03 million acres planted in 2012. The largest decline is projected in Arkansas where growers could plant as few as 221,000 acres in 2013, compared to 595,000 acres in 2012.

Southwest growers are indicating total upland acres of 5.23 million, down 24.4 percent from last year. The respondents planting less cotton said they intend to move those acres into grain sorghum, wheat and corn, in that order. The survey indicated that some producers are planning to increase cotton, with some of those acres coming from grains but the larger reason underlying the increase appears to be weather. Growers unable to plant last year due to drought conditions are expecting to sow more acres in 2013. 

In the West, a 12.2 percent reduction is expected with the regional total at 341,000 acres, and the vast majority of those acres moving into specialty crops. For ELS cotton, U.S. acreage is pegged at 203,000 acres, down 15 percent. As is the case of upland cotton, ELS prices down from year-earlier levels are inducing a shift to other crops.

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