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Future Loyalty Weakens Despite Record Cotton
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- How can Mississippi cotton growers harvest a record 900 pound average and not be enthusiastic about the crop?
1997 was the first year since 1983 that Mississippi cotton growers planted less than 1 million acres, and only the third time since record keeping began in 1866. Growers had governmental incentive to reduce acres in 1983 due to abundant supplies. In 1997, the incentives not to plant cotton came from market prices.
"As long as corn and soybean prices remain good, cotton prices stay flat and the production costs and risks are high, there is not going to be any incentive to plant more cotton acres," said Dr. Will McCarty, extension cotton specialist at Mississippi State University.
McCarty said the state is in danger of planting less than 900,000 acres in 1998. While growers will find replacement crops, the infrastructure of the industry could be stressed.
"Cotton gins, chemical and equipment distributors, consultants and farm labor will feel the pinch with fewer cotton acres," McCarty said.
Economists estimate the farm production value of the state's cotton at $650 million, 3 percent below last year's total.
Growers harvested 1.12 million acres in 1996 and averaged 819 pounds per acre. In 1997, growers harvested 960,000 acres, down 13 percent from the previous year.
Early on, the odds were against the crop as growers faced high productions costs and relatively flat prices. A cool, wet planting season forced growers to destroy about 30,000 acres of cotton -- mainly in Northeast Mississippi.
McCarty said fields that endured the early season conditions benefitted from better midsummer weather and much better later season weather.
"If it wasn't for some bad weather during the later part of harvest, we could have yields even higher," McCarty said.
"Yields benefitted by cotton being planted on only the best land," McCarty said. "By rotating cotton fields with other crops, growers should continue to see better yields in the future."