NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana’s 2008 cotton crop hit its lowest level since 1946, after farmers planted fewer acres in favor of higher-priced crops and then suffered damages from last summer’s hurricanes.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its year-end report on Monday, estimating the state’s production at 280,000 bales, down from 699,000 bales in 2007 and the lowest level since 1946, when 247,000 bales were produced.
Nationwide, cotton production hit 13 million bales, down from 19.2 million bales a year earlier, with farmers planting less cotton acreage.
In Louisiana, farmers planted 35,000 fewer acres as many swapped traditional cotton acreage to crops like corn and soybeans that typically cost less to produce than cotton and had been fetching higher prices. But of the 300,000 acres planted in the state, only about 240,000 were harvested.
Jess Barr, executive vice president of the Louisiana Cotton Producers Association, attributes that largely to an abandonment of acres after hurricanes Gustav and Ike in September.
In a typical year, abandonment wouldn’t top 10,000 acres, he said. This year, five to six times as many acres were abandoned, he said.
“What we’re hoping for is that we’ll get some kind of (federal) disaster package. Otherwise, there are some farms in the hardest-hit areas that will not be financed for 2009,” he said.
While several states produced more cotton than in 2007, most produced less. Some — Louisiana, Mississippi, California and Texas among them — significantly so.
USDA said Texas farmers abandoned significant acreage due to summer drought conditions and abnormally cool fall weather. Texas produced 4.6 million bales, compared with 8.3 million in 2007, the report showed.