Cotton has had a tough road in recent years, with some states—like Louisiana and California—dramatically decreasing acreage. California once grew 1-½ million acres of cotton. Now it's about 200,000 acres collectively from the San Joaquin and the Imperial Valley. Louisiana's sharp decline has been similar.
Dr. Chris Main, Extension cotton and small grains specialist, University of Tennessee, Jackson, says U.S. cotton acreage has been down since 2006. But not every state is on a decline, he told attendees at the weeklong 2010 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans.
Both Arizona and Oklahoma have increased cotton acreage during the same time. Dr. J.C. Banks, Oklahoma State University state cotton specialist, Altus, expects cotton to remain firm there this year. Cotton remains the cash crop.
Georgia is actually expected to grow more cotton in 2010—and perhaps reach a million acres statewide. The trick there is that 85% of Georgia cotton acreage had been planted to the popular DP 555 or so-called "Triple Nickel" cotton. With that cotton variety now making its exit due to advances in today's transgenic varieties, it will be interesting to see what new variety—or varieties—will satisfy the cotton acreage as DP 555 is phased out, Main observes.
Of course, Texas, alone, which likely will plant at least 5 million acres of cotton in 2010, now accounts for more than half of U.S. cotton acreage.
With China, the world's largest cotton grower, reporting a smaller crop just-harvested than had been expected, global cotton prices have increased. As the U.S. and world economy recovers, the textile and apparel business should improve as well, says Drayton Mayers, president and CEO of the Cotton Board, Memphis, Tenn. U.S. cotton production should increase then to meet demand.
Berrye Worsham, Cotton Incorporated president, Cary, North Carolina, says CI is working on state-of-the-art finishing technology to make cotton a very contemporary fiber of today—not of the past. Worsham notes this includes water-proofing denim, while still leaving it a breathable, comfortable fabric. Denim, in fact, remains the largest market for cotton.
So overall, there was optimism in New Orleans for the annual Beltwide gathering—an old city gradually but clearly bouncing back from Hurricane Katrina—and cotton, an old Southern crop on a resurgence too.