The U.S. organic cotton market continues to grow, encouraged by consumer demand, price premiums, and regulatory shifts that will ease marketing restrictions for organic cotton products, according to the 2010 and Preliminary 2011 U.S. Organic Cotton Production & Marketing Trends report conducted by the Organic Trade Association (OTA).

The survey, produced by OTA with funding by Cotton Incorporated, showed planted acres were up 36 percent, to reach 11,827 acres, in 2010, while bales harvested were up nearly 24 percent.

U.S. producers harvested 11,262 acres of organic cotton in 2010, representing 95 percent of their planted acres, and yielding 13,279 bales.

While 2011 saw the largest number of acres planted since 1999, harvested acres and bales are expected to be down by 38 and 45 percent, respectively, due to a devastating drought in the Southern Plains. In fact, the extremely dry conditions in Texas forced farmers there to abandon more than 65 percent of their planted crop in 2011.

A modest acreage gain of two percent is forecast for 2012, bringing plantings of U.S. organic cotton to 16,406 acres. Another two percent net gain is in the five-year forecast, bringing the total to 16,716 acres.

Where opportunity exists for significant expansion of U.S. organic acreage is most likely in nascent organic cotton-growing regions such as North Carolina, which harvested its first crop of organic cotton in 2011.

Survey respondents reported their cost per acre to grow organic cotton ranged from $350 per acre to $650 per acre, with an average cost/acre of $440.

Most survey respondents reported receiving $1.50 per pound for organic cotton, with prices ranging from as high as $2.40 for organic Pima cotton to a low of $1.35 for one organic Upland producer. A majority of producers indicated their cotton was sold by a marketing cooperative. Several indicated that their entire crop was sold to international buyers.

U.S. organic cotton growers enjoy healthy demand for their products, largely due to positive, long-term relationships with buyers.

The average organic grower has been certified for 15 years. Farm sizes average 447 acres, with some farming as few as 46 acres, and others farming as many as 4,500 acres.

Organic cotton growers reported tapping various government resources, but said they could further benefit from the development of additional seed stock varieties, increased market pricing, and tax credits that encourage additional acres to be transitioned to organic production.

For additional information, see the full report.

(Southeast growers are taking an interest in organic crop production and it isn't easy. To see some of the hurdles organic peanut producers face visit http://southeastfarmpress.com/peanuts/organic-peanut-production-not-faint-hearted-0. Also of interest, a North Carolina tobacco grower is taking advantage of organics to improve his operation. That story can be found at http://southeastfarmpress.com/tobacco/organic-tobacco-opens-doors-north-carolina-grower. For those interested in organic grains, this North Carolina grower has taken the plunge. For his story go to http://southeastfarmpress.com/management/north-carolina-grower-downsizes-organic-crops).