Cotton booming again in the Southeast

09/02/2011

While Texas cotton farmers appear set to abandon record levels of acreage this year due to drought, it appears there will be plenty of cotton in the Upper Southeast this year.

“With a record crop planted and only a few timely showers needed to finish the crop, cotton could be more than plentiful in the region,” according to Southeast Farm Press.

Until recently, the volume of cotton in the Upper Southeast has been on a downward trend, in large part due to reduced acreage, but also because of weather-related yield reductions, according to the publication.

The Southeast as a whole is forecast to be the largest production region in the nation this season, a first in more than four decades, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

“The crop is currently projected at 5.3 million bales, the highest since 2001,” the agency stated. “Despite a larger-than-normal abandonment rate of 3 percent, harvested area is expected to reach 3 million acres, the highest in five seasons. In addition, the Southeast yield is forecast at 832 pounds per harvested acre, above both last season and the five-year average.”

But the Carolinas and Virginia have seen a sharp upward tick over the past couple of years, thanks to rising cotton prices and good growing conditions.

North Carolina reported nearly 800,000 acres of cotton in the ground as of August, according to the USDA, while South Carolina had a little more than 300,000 acres and Virginia more than 115,000 acres.

A year ago, North Carolina growers reaped 550,000 acres of cotton, while South Carolina farmers raised 202,000 acres and Virginia 83,000, according to the USDA.

That’s a marked contrast from just two years ago; South Carolina, for example, has nearly tripled its cotton acreage from 2009.

Unlike antebellum days, however, Texas remains the area where cotton is king. And the king is taking it on the chin this year.

Of nearly 7.5 million acres of cotton planted in the Lone Star State this year, more than 2.9 million has already been classified as having failed, or more than 39 percent, according to the USDA.

In North Carolina, by comparison, just 413 acres have been labeled as “failed” by the USDA; in South Carolina, just 240 acres; and in Virginia only four acres.

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