Schroeder believes the only states where there is room for substantially more cotton are California and Arizona. However, it may not be all that big because cotton ground has been taken over by trees and vines in California. Wheat also looks promising for 2011 in the West. If there is a crop switch, it will be from tomatoes and alfalfa to cotton.

Also, Arizona had a sharp increase in acreage in 2010, and there may not be that much more new cotton ground available in 2011. “The dairy industry and alfalfa are bigger than they used to be in the past in Arizona.”

It all depends on the weather as to what 2011 will hold, but Schroeder said he does not see supplies increasing dramatically more than they were this season. There likely will be little or no carryover from 2010 to 2011.

California acreage could take a sharp jump from 300,000 this year to maybe 450,000 or possibly even 500,000 for 2011. This would be high yield cotton, producing double the Beltwide average yield per acre.

This major boost in acreage may be tempered by available planting seed supplies. “I hear they are having problems with cotton seed this year,” said Schroeder. Late season rains on seed producing fields can have a dramatic affect on seed quality.

Assuming that a sharp California acreage increase would benefit Pima may not be correct. The 2010 season was a rough year for Pima yields.

Farmers have long memories and 2010 was a year not soon forgotten.

Pima is a longer season cotton and rains can dramatically downgrade quality. It also mandates second picking. Pima acreage will not likely go down. It just may not increase as much as prices would indicate. Pima also does not yield as well as Acala in many areas of the valley.

Upland varieties are shorter season, thus growers normally avoid rain and fog at harvest with earlier picking. Most are picked only once. Growers can also hedge upland when the Futures trigger a profit. The biggest percentage jump in cotton acreage may be with Acalas and uplands in 2011.

“It was a rough year for Pima growers. It was a horrible planting season, and it turned out to be an expensive growing season,” he said. Yields are down significantly. However, most of the crop was harvested before a series of cold fronts dumped heavy rain on the valley just before Thanksgiving.

He said the final bale count for U.S. Pima will be less than the 450,000 USDA is projecting.

Growers knew yields would be down due to the late start. Nonetheless, many growers were surprised at what they did gather. Strong Pima prices took some of the sting out of the lower yields.

“Quality so far for Pima is good. Overall, this year could have been a lot worse for Pima. We dodged a bullet,” Schroeder said.

Upland and Acala yields were average.

The large group of mill cotton buyers Jess Smith and Sons hosted in the valley got a first-hand look at what growers were facing. A cotton field tour was cancelled due to bad weather.

Later the buyers and growers met for dinner.

“It was a great opportunity for our mill customers to meet growers and talk to each other about growing and processing cotton,” Schroeder said.

hcline@farmpress.com