California, Arizona and New Mexico cotton acres could drop by 13.2 percent in 2013, according to the National Cotton Council’s 30th Annual Early Season Planting Intentions Survey.

The Council’s estimate, based on its survey of growers across the Cotton Belt in late December and early January, said growers in the Far West could plant 536,000 acres of cotton, down from 618,000 acres in 2012.

Across the Belt, farmers indicated they intend to plant 9.01 million acres of upland and Pima cotton or 27 percent fewer acres than they did in 2012. The figures were released at the Council’s annual meeting in Memphis, Tenn., Saturday (Feb. 9).

Cotton farmers have been saying they would plant less cotton in 2013 due to lower cotton prices and higher prices for alternate crops. Since the survey was conducted, grain prices have softened somewhat while New York cotton futures have risen five cents per pound due to increased demand for cotton yarn.

(See related: 2012 cotton crop was record-making, heart-breaking)

“When we look at corn and soybean prices they are down about 10 percent from where they were when the survey started,” said Dr. Gary Adams, vice president for economic and policy analysis with the NCC.

“If the December contract for corn continues to inch down toward that $5 to $5.25 mark and gets down there, and we keep an 8 in front of the December cotton contract, I think we could see producers changing their minds a little bit.”

The NCC survey, mailed in mid-December 2012 to producers across the 17-state Cotton Belt, asked producers for the number of acres devoted to cotton and other crops in 2012 and the acres planned for the coming season.  Survey responses were collected through mid-January.

“Projections by market watchers have been calling for reduced acreage in 2013, and the NCC survey agrees with those expectations,” Adams noted. “Cotton farmers are responding to market signals. Relative prices of cotton and competing crops have been the primary factor influencing U.S. acreage.”

Acreages of upland cotton are expected to decline in each of the growing regions – 18.5 percent in the Southeast, 24.4 percent in the Southwest and 12.2 percent in the West – but the 50.6 percent drop expected in the Mid-South is the most startling.