Cotton acreage was down last year in the Southeast and will likely go down more in 2013, mostly because of a lack of profitability compared to grain crops.

Finding more profit in cotton for growers is an ongoing challenge for Tom Wedegaertner’s team at Cotton Incorporated, and cooperative efforts to produce flavor-infused, gourmet oils made from cottonseed may just be the ticket.

Amid the hoopla surrounding reduced cotton acreage, global pricing instability and other such dire forecasts for cotton, a group of cotton industry leaders set out last year to demonstrate to the public a fact long known by the cotton industry — cotton is a fiber, oil and food crop.

Quirky as it may seem, the public’s interest in sustainable, renewable, local and “green” products provides a timely public relations opportunity for cotton and potentially more profit for cotton growers.

To that end, a collaboration between Cotton Incorporated and Botham Brands, of Barneveld, Wisc., netted the introduction of Acala Farms Flavor-infused Cottonseed Oils.

These oils are heart-healthy, boast a high smoke/flash point, are rich in antioxidants and present intense flavor profiles.

Available in five flavors, plus Pure Cottonseed Oil, the product was launched in late August and has seen strong early success via both its online storefront at www.acala-farms.comand in a growing number of Midwest retail outlets.

A collection of these oils was taste-tested at a number of agricultural and non-ag events this past summer. The lines of people at the recent North Carolina Cotton Expo waiting to sample these new cottonseed oil products is a good indication of the acceptance of these products by consumers, says Monty Bain, Southeast Communications Manager for the Cotton Board.

Bain, along with Tom Wedegaertner, director of cottonseed marketing for Cotton Incorporated and others from the company have taste-sampled the new products at a number of events around the Southeast and the response has been uniformly good.

For a video production from a media briefing at the recent Beltwide Cotton Conferences, see http://southeastfarmpress.com/cotton/cotton-incorporated-seeking-make-big-splash-new-cottonseed-oils.

“The concept of making flavored cottonseed oil started with Cotton Incorporated’s New York public relations department, which was looking for a way to counter criticisms that cotton uses land and water that could be dedicated to food crops,” Wedegaertner says.