Organic cotton continued a nearly decade-long growth trend in 2011, with approximately 16,000 acres planted, according to the Organic Trade Association.
That was up sharply from 2010, when nearly 12,000 acres of organic cotton were planted.
Last year’s total represented the largest number of acres planted since 1999, according to the 2010 and Preliminary 2011 US Organic Cotton Production & Marketing Trends report conducted by the OTA.
However, harvested acres and bales are expected to be down by 38 and 45 percent, respectively, due to a devastating drought in the Southern Plains, according to Southeast Farm Press.
Extremely dry conditions in Texas forced farmers there to abandon more than 65 percent of their planted crop in 2011, the publication added.
A modest acreage gain of two percent is forecast for 2012, bringing plantings of US organic cotton to 16,406 acres.
Organic cotton is cotton grown from non-genetically modified plants without the use of fertilizers or pesticides.
“Where opportunity exists for significant expansion of US organic acreage is most likely in nascent organic cotton-growing regions such as North Carolina,” Southeast Farm Press reported.
The Tar Heel State’s first crop of organic cotton, planted in 2011, featured 65 acres being harvested, yielding 25,000 pounds, according to the OTA report.
Worldwide, some 625,000 acres of organic cotton were planted in 22 countries in 2009, according to Harmonia, an organic cotton growers cooperative.
Survey respondents reported their cost-per-acre to grow organic cotton ranged from $350 to $650, with an average cost-per-acre of $440.
Most survey respondents reported receiving $1.50 per pound for organic cotton, with prices ranging from as high as $2.40 for organic Pima cotton to a low of $1.35 for one organic Upland producer.
That compares to a market price for a pound of conventional Upland cotton of 95 cents a pound in December 2011, and $1.50 a pound for conventional Pima cotton, according to US Department of Agriculture’s Market News Portal.
A majority of producers indicated their cotton was sold by a marketing cooperative, with several indicating that their entire crop was sold to international buyers.
For those growing organic cotton, farm sizes averaged 447 acres, with some farming as few as 46 acres, and others as many as 4,500.
The OTA report stated that US organic cotton growers responding to their survey that they could further benefit from the following:
- Cotton seed varieties better suited to growing conditions;
- Market development to encourage better gate pricing; and
- Tax credits and other financial incentives to encourage organic production.
The survey is definitely not scientific in nature. In December 2011, the Organic Trade Association mailed questionnaires to 79 people and/or companies believed to be farming organic cotton. Surveys were sent to locations in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas and North Carolina, thought to represent all the states with growers of organic cotton in the United States in 2010.