The same conditions that took the cotton market to its highs in late January remain in place, says O. A. Cleveland, Jr., Mississippi State University Extension economics professor emeritus.

“The situation is exactly the same,” and should provide support for prices in the 80 cent range, he said at the annual commodity conference of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.

And while he says he’d “love to see” the 95 cents that some international analysts are forecasting for the December contract, “I personally have difficulty going above the 86 cent level.

“There is some very strong resistance at 86-87 cents. For the 2013 crop, 86 cents is a place where my price analysis starts to fail — I can’t see it going beyond that. I’d love to see 95 cents, but that’s too big a bite for me to take right now.”

With the outlook for significantly less cotton acreage in the U.S. this year, and particularly in Mississippi, Cleveland says production and consumption numbers are continually changing.

“I’m hearing 300,000 acres of cotton in Mississippi, and some are saying it could go as low as 275,000, even 200,000. We’ll certainly reduce acres in the Mid-South.

“The Southeast will decline by 30 percent to 35 percent. California may actually move up a bit, because Pima prices are higher due to huge purchases by China.

“Texas is always a huge wild card. In many cases, they don’t have another alternative. They’ve planted a lot of dryland wheat this year, and a lot of grain sorghum along the Coastal Bend. Nonetheless, they’ll have a huge cotton acreage and will use the insurance program.

“They won’t have the 8 million acres they’ve had in the past — perhaps only 6 million or less. But they’ll still have 55 percent to 60 percent of the acreage that will be planted in the U.S. this year, unless the drought there continues.

“Long range weather forecasters are saying Texas and the Southwest are looking at a long range drought. Folks I talk to out there say it’s still very dry — some say there’s not an ounce of water at the 10-foot depth. A farmer I know who’s 70 years old says he hasn’t seen it this dry in his lifetime. We’ve got to assume the long range weather folks are correct and that the drought will continue out there.”

Most predictions are for 10.2-10.3 million acres in the U.S., Cleveland says, “but I’m a bit lower than that. I think Georgia will be very strong with their acreage this year, which will keep it a bit above 10 million acres. We could have a crop that ranges from as low as 12 million bales up to 14 million, depending on harvested acreage and yield.”