Most people involved in California agriculture today will tell you these are some of the best times economically for most all crops.

However, cotton continues to suffer against competing crops and good news is hard to come by for the crop that was once the foundation of Western agriculture.

No one knows that better than Kevin McDermott, Vice President and Senior Manager for Jess Smith and Sons Cotton, one of the nation’s largest cotton merchants based in Bakersfield, California.

McDermott has logged 36 years since he started in the cotton business and currently serves as vice president of the Western Cotton Shippers Association

He acknowledges California cotton acreage may decline once again in 2014, but maybe not as much as many are predicting, according to McDermott.

“Earlier, people were expecting a 20 percent drop in California San Joaquin Valley cotton acreage. I am starting to hear growers are looking at cotton rather than corn because of lower corn prices. The cotton acreage drop may be more in the 10 percent range,” said McDermott.

Coupled with that encouraging news, Pima cotton is doing very well in the marketplace with prices 35 to 40 cents higher than Pima prices for the 2012 crop. Pima represents almost 70 percent of the SJV cotton acreage.

While cotton may win against corn and other crops like alfalfa, it is going to lose against permanent and high value crops like trees and vines and processing tomatoes. It’s not just economics in that battle. It’s water.

California farmers are ending the 2013 season with much apprehension about next year’s surface water deliveries from state and federal water projects.

World prices for short staple cotton are not helping in cotton’s battle for land and water.

Jess Smith and Sons settled 2012 prices for its customers: 92.72 for San Joaquin Valley saw ginned Acala; 97.72 for roller ginned SJV Acala; 135.24 for SJV Pima; 81.05 for Desert Southwest short staple and 134.24 for Desert Southwest Pima.

Prices for the 2012 crop were a “little lower” than the two seasons prior, but still at historical “good levels,” believes McDermott.

However, the two prior seasons were tumultuous with prices getting so high they reduced consumption. Consumption has started back up with more moderate prices.

The Bakersfield firm markets 600,000 to 800,000 bales annually for more than 1,000 growers across the Cotton Belt. 80 percent of its growers are in the company’s seasonal program; 20 percent set their own prices.

Jess Smith and Sons is the largest family-owned cotton merchant in the U.S.