Despite the various challenges related to water and labor, California cotton growers are making the best of it. Back in April, preliminary estimates were for cotton acreage to increase by about 10 percent over 2021. President and CEO of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, Roger Isom said that if the weather holds up, it could be a good year for the industry.
“I think overall for those guys that were able to get planted, that had water, it’s a good year so far, knock on wood. We’ve obviously got a couple months to go. You can always run into problems with aphid and whitefly in the late season,” Isom noted. “You can also get crazy weather that could impact the harvest and the quality of the cotton that we pick. But right now, it’s been a good year.”
Had California’s water situation been better, Isom believes the increase in acreage would have been even more substantial as prices remain strong. At the same time that growers are seeing increased prices, particularly for Pima cotton, input costs have also been extraordinarily high.
“If commodity prices were what they were a year ago, we’d be done for. I mean, these input prices are two or three times higher than what they have been. Obviously, our labor costs are up because of the higher minimum wage and the reduced overtime triggers. So, we’ve been impacted on all fronts,” said Isom. “It’s good to see the prices up there helping us overcome it, but long term I don’t know where we’re going to be.”
As 100 percent of California cotton is exported, the logistical challenges at the ports have also been a concern. Things are beginning to improve logistically, allowing cotton to move to international markets and setting things up for a positive crop year. “I think right now I feel pretty good about it, as we stand today. But we could definitely use more water,” Isom noted.