NCC Survey Suggests U.S. Producers to Plant 11.5 Million Acres of Cotton in 2021

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – U.S. cotton producers intend to plant 11.5 million cotton acres this spring, down 5.2 percent from 2020 (based on USDA’s February 2021 estimate), according to the National Cotton Council’s 40th Annual Early Season Planting Intentions Survey. (see table below)

Upland cotton intentions are 11.3 million acres, down 4.9 percent from 2020, while extra-long staple (ELS) intentions of 161,000 acres represent a 20.7 percent decline. The detailed survey results were announced during the 2021 National Cotton Council Annual Meeting Virtual Live-Stream Event.

Dr. Jody Campiche, the NCC’s vice president, Economics & Policy Analysis, said, “Planted acreage is just one of the factors that will determine supplies of cotton and cottonseed. Ultimately, weather and agronomic conditions are among the factors that play a significant role in determining crop size.”

She said that with abandonment assumed at 18.1 percent for the United States, Cotton Belt harvested area totals 9.4 million acres. Using an average U.S. yield per harvested acre of 855 pounds generates a cotton crop of 16.7 million bales, with 16.3 million upland bales and 431,000 ELS bales.

The NCC questionnaire, mailed in mid-December 2020 to producers across the 17-state Cotton Belt, asked producers for the number of acres devoted to cotton and other crops in 2020 and the acres planned for the coming season. Survey responses were collected through mid-January.

Campiche noted, “History has shown that U.S. farmers respond to relative prices when making planting decisions. Relative to the average futures prices during the first quarter of 2020, prices of all commodities were trading higher. For the 2021 crop year, corn, soybeans, wheat, and sorghum are expected to provide more competition for cotton acres.”

Southeast respondents indicate a 4.2 percent decrease in the region’s upland area to 2.3 million acres. In Alabama, the survey responses indicate a 9.3 percent decrease in cotton acreage and increases in corn, wheat, and soybeans. In Florida, respondents indicated slightly less cotton and more corn and peanuts. In Georgia, cotton acreage is expected to decline by 8.6 percent as growers expect to plant more corn, wheat, soybeans, and peanuts. In North Carolina and South Carolina, growers expect to increase cotton acreage by 13.4% and 2.6%, respectively. Cotton acreage is expected to decline by 10.0% percent in Virginia while an increase in corn, soybeans, and ‘other crops’ is expected.

Mid-South growers intend to plant 1.7 million acres, a decline of 3.7 percent from the previous year. Across the region, all states except Missouri intend to decrease cotton acreage. Arkansas producers intend to plant 6.8 percent less cotton acreage and increase corn, wheat, and soybeans. Louisiana producers expect to plant 5.6 percent less cotton acreage in 2021 and plant more corn, wheat and soybeans. In Mississippi, cotton acreage is expected to decrease by 1.6 percent while corn, wheat, and soybean acreage is expected to increase. Missouri growers expect to increase cotton acres by 1.2 percent, planting more corn and less soybeans. In Tennessee, cotton acreage is expected to decline by 6.1 percent as land shifts to corn, soybeans, and wheat.

Southwest growers intend to plant 7.1 million cotton acres, a 5.5 percent decline. In Kansas, producers intend to plant 0.9 percent more cotton acres and less corn, wheat, and soybeans. In Oklahoma, growers expect to plant 5.2 percent less cotton and more wheat. Texas acreage is expected to decline by 5.7 percent while corn, wheat, and sorghum acreage is expected to increase.

Far West producers are expecting to plant 197,000 upland cotton acres, a 2.5 percent decrease from 2020. Cotton acreage is expected to decrease in Arizona and California and increase slightly in New Mexico.

ELS acreage is expected to decline by 26.7 percent in California and 10.5 percent in Texas due to concerns about water availability. A slight increase is expected in Arizona, while New Mexico acreage is expected to remain unchanged from 2020.

In recent years, U.S. cotton producers have struggled with volatile cotton prices, high production costs and weather issues. In the face of very tight margins, many producers continue to face difficult economic conditions heading into 2021.

NCC delegates were reminded the expectations are a snapshot of intentions based on market conditions at survey time with actual plantings influenced by changing market conditions and weather.

(table below)

Prospective 2021 U.S. Cotton Area

 2020 Actual (Thou.)  1/  2021 Intended (Thou.)  2/ Percent Change
SOUTHEAST 2,368  2,268  -4.2% 
  Alabama 450 408 -9.3%
  Florida 98 97 -1.2%
  Georgia 1,190 1,088 -8.6%
  North Carolina 360 408 13.4%
  South Carolina 190 195 2.6%
  Virginia 80 72 -10.0%
MID-SOUTH 1,800  1,733  -3.7% 
  Arkansas 525 489 -6.8%
  Louisiana 170 161 -5.6%
  Mississippi 530 521 -1.6%
  Missouri 295 299 1.2%
  Tennessee 280 263 -6.1%
SOUTHWEST 7,520  7,109  -5.5% 
  Kansas 195 197 0.9%
  Oklahoma 525 498 -5.2%
  Texas 6,800 6,415 -5.7%
WEST 202  197  -2.5% 
  Arizona 125 125 -0.3%
  California 34 28 -17.7%
  New Mexico 43 44 3.2%
TOTAL UPLAND 11,890  11,308  -4.9% 
TOTAL ELS 203  161  -20.7% 
  Arizona 7 8 19.8%
  California 147 108 -26.7%
  New Mexico 11 11 0.0%
  Texas 38 34 -10.5%
ALL COTTON 12,093  11,468  -5.2%