Cotton prices are going to fall

Cotton is the third most valuable crop in the US, after corn and soybeans.

Cotton prices have roughly doubled over the last year, perhaps a bit more than other staple agricultural commodities.  The big difference with cotton is that it uses a much smaller share of the land base than corn, soybeans and wheat do.  That makes it a lot easier to proportionately expand production when prices rise.  And since it's a higher-value crop than corn, soybeans and wheat, that land expansion is going to happen, as described here in the New York Times today

... In the United States, the economics of growing cotton vary according to many factors, including regional differences and whether or not the land is irrigated. Farmers in several southern states said that at a cotton price of about $1 a pound, their profit could be roughly $200 to $500 more per acre than they could earn growing corn or wheat. For 1,000 acres planted in cotton, that means an additional $200,000 to $500,000 profit.
“It’s going to be cotton stalks everywhere,” said Travis Patterson, 44, a farmer near Spearman, who was irrigating one of his fields on a recent afternoon with help from his son Zane, 12, in preparation for planting cotton. “The landscape’s going to change,” he said, describing a countryside blanketed with the white of cotton rather than the more familiar green and gold of corn.
It's going to be harder to expand production of corn, soybeans and wheat.  Competition with cotton is just a small part of it.  For these much larger crops there simply isn't much land available on which to expand production.  So, I expect prices for cotton to fall quite a bit over the next year.  I'm less sanguine about corn, soybeans and wheat.


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