Texas leads the nation in both cotton and cattle, but production of each is on a downtrend as cotton is not as attractive as some other crops and rebuilding cattle numbers has be stymied by the relentless drought.
U.S. cotton producers are expected to plant just 9.01 million acres of all cotton this spring, down a whopping 26.8% from 2012 acreage. Upland cotton intentions make up 8.81 million acres, down 27%.
According to the National Cotton Council survey, Texas and Southwest cotton growers are following that trend with 5.23 million intended acres for this year, down 24.4% from last year.
The biggest reason given by Texas/Southwest respondents was that they intend to shift acres from cotton to more attractive grain sorghum, wheat, and corn, in that order. Once a stepchild of cotton—used mainly for a rotation crop—sorghum has emerged as a more important and profitable crop, especially with its progress made for ethanol production in the renewable fuels industry.
But a big factor in how much cotton Texas finally produces this year will be the weather as many producers are experiencing their third year of drought.
"Whether it ever starts to rain here again will be the big factor in how much cotton we produce," says Randall Conner, executive vice president of the Southern Rolling Plains Cotton Growers Association, Winters, Texas.
Conner notes that heading toward spring growers are experiencing a horrific deficit in subsoil moisture. Some growers were unable to plant cotton last year, and communities (and cotton gins) that hinge their economies on cotton can't afford to see that again.
But with rain—even with far fewer acres—his region still could produce a good cotton crop this season, especially since the boll weevil has long been out of the picture as a production culprit. The Southern Rolling Plains zone was the first in Texas to eradicate the weevil.