WASHINGTON – U.S. cotton producers intend to plant 13.73 million acres of cotton this spring, up 0.6 percent from 2004, according to the National Cotton Council’s annual early season plantings intention survey.

Upland cotton intentions are 13.48 million acres, an increase of 0.5 percent from 2004 plantings of 13.41 million acres. Extra long staple intentions of 255,000 acres represent a 2.3 percent increase from 2004. The results were announced at the NCC’s annual meeting that began in Washington today.

With average abandonment, total upland and ELS harvested area would be about 12.35 million acres. Applying each state’s trend yield to its 2005 projected harvested acres generates a crop of 18.86 million bales. This compares to USDA’s estimated 2004 total production of 23.01 million bales, a year of record yields in many of the cotton producing states.

Cottonseed production for 2005 is projected at 6.85 million tons, down from 8.41 million last year.

The NCC survey was mailed in mid-December to about one-third of the producers across the 17-state Cotton Belt. Surveys had to be returned by mid-January.

According to Stephen Slinsky, NCC senior economist, market conditions growers face are very different from last year, when prices for cotton, corn and soybeans were substantially higher than loan value.

“As with every year, final acreage allocations will be heavily influenced by expected returns of cotton and competing crops,” Slinsky noted. “However, this year producers are paying special attention to agronomic considerations such as disease management and soil moisture conditions.”

Based on survey results, the Mid-South and Southwest regions show intended upland cotton planting increases of 6.8 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively. Decreases in upland cotton plantings were indicated for the West and Southeast, down 11.3 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively.

According to the survey, Mid-South cotton plantings will expand at the expense of both soybeans and corn. The combination of lower corn/soybean prices, anticipated cost increases to address Asian soybean rust and favorable cotton yields appear to be the factors leading to the increased area.

In the Southwest, the survey indicated Texas growers intend to plant roughly the same area as last year, 5.85 million acres, while Oklahoma growers indicated a 6.9 percent increase. After reducing planted acres last year, Kansas producers appear prepared to increase cotton acreage 11.9 percent in 2005.

One reason for the decrease in Southeast cotton plantings is the relative strength of peanut prices. Respondents from the Southeast also expressed intent to shift cotton acres to corn.

In the West, New Mexico growers intend to increase upland area by 15.1 percent to 78,000 acres, while Arizona and California respondents indicated 10.7 and 14.7 percent decreases, respectively.

“The intended drop in California may be mitigated as recent rains should increase available water supplies for the 2005 growing season,” he noted.

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com