U.S. cotton producers intend to plant 13.21 million acres of cotton this spring, down 13.6 percent from 2006, according to the National Cotton Council’s annual early planting intentions survey. The results were announced at the NCC 2007 annual meeting in Austin, Texas.

Upland cotton intentions are 12.85 million acres, a decrease of 14.1 percent from 2006. Extra long staple (ELS) intentions of 361,000 acres represent a 10.9 percent increase from to last year.

Assuming an average abandonment rate and yield trends, total upland and ELS harvested area of about 11.99 million acres and would produce a cotton crop of 20.66 million bales. This compares to 2006’s total production of 21.73 million bales, representing a 5 percent reduction in production.

Cottonseed production is projected at 7.21 million tons, down from 7.66 million last year.

The NCC survey was mailed in mid-December 2006 to about 40 percent of the producers across the 17-state Cotton Belt. Surveys had to be returned by mid-January.

Stephen Slinsky, NCC’s senior economist, said, “Assuming normal weather conditions, a U.S. crop between 20 million bales and 21 million bales is very possible.”

He added that it’s difficult to pinpoint why cotton yields have been higher in recent years. Most of the Cotton Belt had very respectable yields last year in spite of significant adverse weather, leading NCC to use simple three-year average yields in its computations.

“However, yield deviations observed over the past decade suggest that under ideal conditions, 22 million bales would not be out of the question, while severe weather problems could also push the crop to around 18 million bales.”

Based on survey results, the Southeast, Mid-South, Southwest and Far West show intended upland cotton planting decreases of 22.1 percent, 19.6 percent, 6.6 percent, and 15.4 percent, respectively.

Survey results for the Southeast states show a significant shift into corn and, to a lesser extent, wheat. There is also a modest shift into soybeans. While Virginia decreases the most, 31 percent, Florida’s intentions are only 2.4 percent less than last year. Georgia and Alabama growers indicate 23.5 percent and 18 percent decreases, respectively.

Every Mid-South state is expected to reduce cotton acres from last year, some significantly, led by Louisiana with a 34.8 percent reduction and Mississippi with a 23.8 percent reduction. Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri are expected to decrease acres 16.6 percent, 14.8 percent, and 6.1 percent respectively, compared to last year.

“Except for Tennessee, the sharp increase in corn prices will draw Mid-South cotton acreage into corn,” Slinsky said. “Not all of the reduction in Tennessee cotton acres will shift into corn; almost half of these cotton acres will shift into wheat.”

Oklahoma showed the greatest intended decrease in the Southwest — a 13.9 percent drop to 271,000 acres. Texas growers indicated intentions of planting 6 million acres, a 6.3 percent drop from last year.

The Western region showed a projected 15.4 percent decline.

For the second consecutive year, California growers intend to plant less area to upland cotton. Unlike last year, when specialty crops pulled upland cotton out of production, the shift will be to ELS cotton and wheat.

If that state’s growers plant the indicated 208,000 acres to cotton, it would represent a 27.1 percent decrease from the previous year.

The survey revealed Arizona growers intend to increase upland area by 0.3 percent to 211,000.

e-mail: erobinson@farmpress.com