California agriculture continues to witness a decline in cotton acreage, despite higher prices and conditions which favor the production of extra-long-staple Pima; the fiber type which provides the highest financial returns to growers.
Roger Isom, president of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association (CCGGA), says the major deterrents to growing cotton this year include the lack of rainfall, plus the federal and state legislative drought which continues to chip away water allotments to farmers to protect smelt and salmon habitats.
“After surveying gins and several growers, our best guess is that about 188,000 acres of cotton will be planted in California this year - 130,000 acres of that in Pima,” Isom said.
The balance – about 58,000 acres –will be shorter-staple Acala cotton.
The 188,000 acre estimate is 100,000 fewer acres than last year - a 32 percent drop. It would be the lowest cotton acreage planted in California since the 1920s.
“If we had the water – even 40-50 percent – you would see a lot more cotton planted,” the cotton leader said. “We have strong cotton yields, quality, and demand, but not the water to grow it.”
Isom expects two gins to close this year.
At one point in time, Fresno County ranked first in the nation in cotton production. The nation’s largest agricultural county has slipped to 65th place in the cotton ranking.
Isom said, “Over the years, we have lost 300,000 acres of cotton in Fresno County, more than 20 cotton gins, two cotton brokers, a custom module hauling company, and more than 1,000 jobs.”