Cotton acreage expected to increase in 2010

Published 8:08 am Wednesday, April 7, 2010

FRANKLIN—A recovering economy could lead to a significant increase in the number of acres of cotton farmers plant this year, according to Virginia Farm Bureau.

“We are expecting to see anywhere from a 10 to 12 percent increase in plantings in Virginia this year,” said Spencer Neale, senior assistant director of commodity marketing for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Prices are looking very good. In fact, it is the best we have seen in several years, as the economy is turning around and people are starting to buy more clothing. That is what is really helping push the upswing.”

Rexford Cotten, a Virginia Cooperative Extension agent in Suffolk, said Western Tidewater “possibly could experience that.” He noted the bulk of the state’s cotton is grown in the counties east of Interstate 95 in the state’s southeastern corner, including Southampton and Isle of Wight.

“We’re in the heart of the cotton belt,” Cotten said.

Johnny Parker, a cotton agronomist at the Commonwealth Gin in Windsor, said they are expecting more cotton to be planted — and in turn a busier year at the gin.

“As a cotton gin, we are part of the infrastructure for that industry,” Parker said.

The unseasonably warm temperatures could be another good sign for cotton farmers, he said.

“Cotton loves hot weather,” Parker said.

Although the weather is warm, cotton isn’t usually planted in the region until around April 20.

“We’re still a couple of weeks away,” Parker said, noting unseasonably warm weather is helping to warm the soil.

“I’d rather see it hot than not hot. It’s definitely a positive for the cotton industry,” he said.

Cotton production declined worldwide over the past several years. In Virginia, 100,000 acres annually dropped to 60,000 just a couple of years ago.

“We could see our plantings of cotton increase to 70,000 acres this year,” Neale said.

He said that increased demand for clothing has manufacturers, particularly in China, looking to buy more cotton.

“In Virginia, we export about three-quarters of our cotton every year,” Neale said. “China is our largest market due to the high number of clothing manufacturers in that country. China really sets the tone for the worldwide cotton market.”

In 2008, Virginia cotton growers generated more than $36.3 million in cash receipts. By acreage harvested, cotton was the state’s ninth largest crop produced.