Cotton Links

- Editor's Note -

Better Days Ahead
For Cotton

By Tommy Horton

And so we’ve come to the end of another crop season with enough hills and valleys, ups and downs and unexpected surprises to fill a John Grisham novel. This was not your typical year, and it’s debatable if we’ll see another one like it anytime soon.

Last January, we were talking about opportunities for cotton, even in the midst of the dramatic increase in corn, soybean and wheat acreage. The opportunities were there, but it was hard finding them. In fact, in March we saw a record-breaking spike in cotton prices that sent the New York futures contract skyrocketing to more than a dollar. That price increase, however, was short-lived, and since that time we’ve seen a flattening of cotton prices and even a downward trend.

It must be incredibly frustrating for cotton producers to watch prices fluctuate in such an unpredictable manner. It’s almost as if there are forces at work beyond our control. Nobody here pretends to have a crystal ball. But we can learn some things by studying history and listening to the experts. Yes, there have been other times in the past when cotton acreage went down, but those acres always came back and so did the price.

True, the economic crisis the country is experiencing right now is significant, and there are factors at work now that don’t compare to any previous moment in history. However, I’m basing my short-term and long-term optimism on what I recently heard from Louisiana cotton consultant Ray Young who has observed more in the cotton industry in the past 50 years than any of the so-called experts out there.

While on a trip to Louisiana, I stopped in to visit him, and he wasn’t hesitant about sharing his thoughts about the current state of the industry. “Mr. Ray,” as his colleagues call him, believes that cotton acres will indeed increase along with prices. It’s just a matter of survival until corn and soybean prices return to reality. He has seen it happen before – more than once – and he knows cotton is capable of such a comeback.

Granted, Mr. Ray is only one person, and nobody is saying that he has all the answers. But when a consultant who has more than a half century of experience in production agriculture speaks optimistically about the future for cotton, people tend to listen.

Take it from Mr. Ray. It might take a little time, but there are market forces that could help rescue cotton in the next two years – increased global cotton demand, lower corn and soybean prices, higher cotton prices, continued lowering of cotton stocks and an improving U.S. economy.

It won’t be easy, but we’ve been down this road before. If Mr. Ray and his Louisiana friends think it will happen again, that’s good enough for me.

If you have comments, send them to: Editor, Cotton Farming Magazine, 5118 Park Ave., Suite 111, Memphis, Tenn., 38117. Or send e-mail to: thorton@onegrower.com.

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