National Cotton Council survey forecasts 13 million planted acres

United States cotton producers intend to plant 13 million cotton acres this spring, down 5.5% from 2019 (based on U.S. Department of Agriculture’s February 2020 estimate), according to the National Cotton Council’s 39th Annual Early Season Planting Intentions Survey.

Upland cotton intentions are 12.8 million acres, down 5.6% from 2019, while extra-long staple intentions of 224,000 acres represent a 2.7% decline. The survey results were announced today at the NCC’s 2020 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Jody Campiche, the NCC’s vice president, Economics & Policy Analysis, said, “Planted acreage is just one of the factors that will determine supplies of cotton and cottonseed. Ultimately, weather, insect pressures and agronomic conditions play a significant role in determining crop size.”

She said that with abandonment assumed at 13.8% for the United States, Cotton Belt harvested area totals 11.2 million acres. Using an average U.S. yield per harvested acre of 848 pounds generates a cotton crop of 19.8 million bales, with 19.1 million upland bales and 675,000 ELS bales.

The NCC questionnaire, mailed in mid-December 2019 to producers across the 17-state Cotton Belt, asked producers for the number of acres devoted to cotton and other crops in 2019 and the acres planned for the coming season. Survey responses were collected through mid-January.

Campiche noted, “History has shown that U.S. farmers respond to relative prices when making planting decisions. The cotton-to-corn and cotton-to-soybean price ratios are lower than in 2019 due to lower cotton prices and higher corn and soybean prices. A price ratio decrease generally indicates a decline in cotton acreage. For the 2020 crop year, corn, soybeans, and wheat are expected to provide modestly more competition for cotton acres.”

Southeast respondents indicate a 9.3% decrease in the region’s upland area to 2.7 million acres. All states in the Southeast show a decline in acreage. In Alabama, the survey responses indicate a 4.9% decrease in cotton acreage. In Florida, respondents indicated slightly less cotton due to a shift to corn. In Georgia, cotton acreage is expected to decline by 11.9% as growers expect to plant more corn and peanuts. In North Carolina, an 8.4% decline is expected. In South Carolina, cotton acreage is expected to decline by 10.7% while acreage of corn and soybeans is expected in increase. Cotton acreage is expected to decline by 3.6% in Virginia.

Mid-South growers intend to plant 2.2 million acres, a decline of 6.5% from the previous year. Across the region, all states intend to decrease cotton acreage. Arkansas producers intend to plant 3.0% less cotton acreage and increase corn acres. Louisiana producers expect to plant 6.4% less cotton acreage in 2020 and plant more corn and soybeans. In Mississippi, cotton acreage is expected to decrease by 8.9% due to a shift to corn and soybeans. Missouri growers expect to decrease cotton acres by 2.1% and plant more corn. In Tennessee, cotton acreage is expected to decline by 11.8%% as land shifts to corn and soybeans.

Southwest growers intend to plant 7.6 million cotton acres, a 3.4% decline. Increases in cotton area are expected in Kansas and Oklahoma, while a decrease is expected in Texas. In Kansas, producers intend to plant 5.1% more cotton acres and reduce corn and soybean acreage. In Oklahoma, a 3.3% increase in cotton acreage is expected. Texas acreage is expected to decline by 4.2% while corn and wheat acreage is expected to increase.

Far West producers are expecting to plant 221,000 upland cotton acres—a 20.5% decrease from 2019. Cotton acreage is expected to decrease in Arizona and California and increase slightly in New Mexico.

At current prices, many producers could continue to face difficult economic conditions in 2020. Production costs remain high, and unless producers have good yields, current prices may not be enough to cover all production expenses.

NCC delegates were reminded the expectations are a snapshot of intentions based on market conditions at survey time with actual plantings influenced by changing market conditions or weather.