An El Niño, which implies a wetter winter, could encourage the switch even more, Robinson said. “Producers might hang onto those wheat crops and take them to grain, and they might be tempted to forward contract more grain sorghum or even plant more corn. There are a lot of ifs out there, but I do think we’re going to have a large cotton reduction.”

If U.S. cotton acres come in around 9.5 million bales in 2013, U.S. producers could still grow a crop of 15 million bales, Robinson noted. “If you add carryover of 5 million bales, we will have somewhere over 20 million bales of supply. If we export 12 million of that and use 3.4 million domestically, we’ll have ending stocks that are basically in the neighborhood of where they are now. From a fundamental standpoint, we should have similar price patterns and similar price levels to what we have now.”

Robinson urged producers to get with their lenders early. “From an ag lenders standpoint, with the decline in cotton prices, and the possible changes in farm policy that could take away direct payments and countercyclical payments, lenders are really operating in an uncertain picture.”

Carl Anderson, Extension professor emeritus, Texas A&M University, said cotton’s oversupply “is not going to disappear overnight. “We could see a little bit of a bump in the market early in 2013. If we get to the 80-cent level, there should definitely be some action taken by the growers to fix prices.”

Cotton market analyst Mike Stevens noted that recent U.S. exports sales of 317,000 running bales, with 265,000 bales going to China “came out of nowhere. It’s causing sellers to have second thoughts. But it’s not going to turn this market into a bull market. We are in a bear market. Rallies are to be sold. The days of the dollar cotton are now dreams.”