King cotton begins a comeback in California
Rising cotton futures are spurring farmers to plant more cotton in California this year, according to an Associated Press report.
Commodity futures for cotton rose to $1.50 per pound in August, triple the price in 2008. Long-term cotton futures are now around $1, but extra-long-fiber Pima cotton prices are closer to $1.30.
"Those are kind of unheard of prices, and people are saying they could be conservative," Kern County farmer Jim Crettol was quoted in the story. He expanded his Pima cotton crop 60 percent to 600 acres and would plant more if he hadn't converted land to grapes and almonds when cotton prices fell.
Known in the 70s as "King Cotton," when acreage in the Golden State peaked at 1.6 million, cotton planting tumbled to a low of 200,000 acres two years ago. In 2011, forecasters believe 400,000 California acres will be planted to cotton, primarily Pima varieties. Pima cotton is used in luxury products, such as high-end sheets, towels and clothing.
Director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center at UC Davis, Dan Sumner, told AP reporter Jeff Nachtigal that consumers probably won't notice the price difference.
"Consumers will see a modest increase in prices when they buy a shirt or sheets. But it won't be a big change, because most of the cost is in processing and marketing," Sumner was quoted.
Renewed interest in cotton is trickling down to tractor sales and repair businesses, Nachtigal reported.
Thomason Tractor Co. of Firebaugh has sold five new John Deere cotton pickers after selling none for three years. Kern Tractor Supply in McFarland has seen a 5 to 10 percent increase orders for parts for equipment to plant and harvest cotton.
Last year, farmers sold used John Deere cotton pickers to scrap iron yards for as little as $1,400. One of the same models was listed on eBay last week for $6,000, the story said.
Short supply and stronger demand globally are driving a cotton resurgence.