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Cotton progress, acreage surprising in Mississippi

While there's still a lot of time left until it's all baled
and shipped, it's shaping up to be a bounce-back year for the U.S. cotton
business so far.

Cotton acres have fallen over the last few years as farmers
sought a growing piece of the increasingly profitable corn production pie. But
this year, cotton is making a comeback in the southern U.S. First, more acres
were planted, and now, it's progressing better than it has in years, some say.

"Without numbers, I can safely say that a 'significant'
increase in cotton has taken place in most of the area I serve," says
Ernie Flint, a certified crop advisor (CCA) with Mississippi State University
Extension in Kosciusko, Mississippi. "All except a few localized fields
emerged well, and have grown very well."

Flint's observations are common throughout not just the
mid-South, but the deep South, Southwest and West. Overall, officials with the
National Cotton Council (NCC) estimate this year's total acreage more than 10%
higher than it was last year, at around 10.1 million acres.

Now, on top of that higher acreage figure, the quality of
the crop is reason for optimism in some parts of the mid-South, for example,
where weather extremes have devastated the crop in the last 2 years. It's a
welcome circumstance for Flint, who says a better crop will help his area's
farmers be "back in business.

"The increased acreage of cotton has changed the pace
for many...I expect the level of activity will remain high for most of the
season if present trends are good indicators," Flint says.

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