Struggles of California Cotton Growers Demonstrated by Drop in Acreage

Brian German Field & Row Crops, Industry

California cotton growers have been struggling to navigate a multitude of challenges in 2020. Issues with water availability have been compounded with the effect that COVID-19 is having on world markets. The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Pink Bollworm Program has released the final mapped acreage for California cotton, which notes a significant decline. There was an overall decrease of 28 percent for California cotton acreage for 2020.

california cotton growers

“Unfortunately, it’s as we expected,” said Roger Isom, President and CEO of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association. “It’s partly due to COVID, partly due to water. But the bottom line is it’s a significant drop in acreage. We’d like to see more cotton acreage out there but this COVID has basically shut the cotton industry down.” 

Cotton growers are farming 145,840 acres of pima and 41,187 acres of upland this year. The acreage marks a 28 percent decrease in pima acreage and a 27 percent decrease in upland. Last year’s numbers were recorded at 259,357 acres of cotton statewide. The lack of demand is creating some concern within the industry as to what the future looks like for cotton.

“We have barely moved any of our 2019 crop, let alone what’s in the ground today and going to be harvested starting next month,” said Isom. “I think it’s going to have an impact on the 2021 crop. Unless things change and you see a dramatic uptick, you’re going to see a reduced acreage in ’21 as well.”

California cotton growers were hoping that the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) would provide some type of relief. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has determined that pima cotton is ineligible for CFAP payments. Isom noted that it was inexplicable that pima was not included in the program, considering how much growers are struggling due to conditions created by COVID-19. “We think that cotton out of all commodities has probably been impacted the most because it wasn’t just a price reduction, it’s flat just not moving. So that’s been a problem for us,” said Isom.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West