Gary Adams, National Cotton Council vice president, agrees on how so much hinges on the weather.
"Planted acreage is just one variable determining final production," Adams emphasizes. "Weather is often a more significant determinant, particularly weather developments in the southwestern U.S. With this in mind, we could see the U.S. crop ranging from a low of 9.5 million bales to a high of 17 million bales."
John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas A&M University Regents Professor and Texas State Climatologist, doesn't give much long-term hope for a big general return to heavy and frequent rainfall. Nielsen-Gammon says it is more likely the best producers can hope for is a neutral weather scenario this season.
Nielsen-Gammon notes that El Nino, a warming of temperatures of the Pacific Ocean surface water—which typically means more rainfall—failed to live up to its earlier expectations and just fizzled out.
But La Nina, a cooling of ocean surface temperatures that largely resulted in the historic drought in Texas in 2011 and also dry conditions in 2012, may not be the driving force in 2013, either.
Instead, he says, the Tropics look neutral for 2013. He notes that means cotton growers, along with other farmers and ranchers, shouldn't expect a return to a wet year, but more of a neutral growing season this spring and summer.
Of course, El Nino and La Nina weather cycles are not the only factors that can affect the climate, Nielsen-Gammon adds. He said large volcanic eruptions, dust in the atmosphere, ground cover—or lack of it of land—and other factors all can impact weather and rainfall.
In addition to the Pacific, the Atlantic Ocean also can bring major weather changes to U.S. cotton-growing regions.
Cattle numbers plunge
U.S. cattle numbers continue to decline, and Texas certainly is following that trend, according to a USDA inventory report.