Water Announcement Tempers Enthusiasm on California Cotton Acreage Increase

The good news is that cotton acreage looks like it will increase for the 2nd year in a row.  Record rainfall and snowpack, coupled with stable cotton prices and falling prices from other commodities are leading to an increase in cotton acreage.  However, that increase is being tempered by a disappointing, less than expected water allotment from the Central Valley Project (CVP) of only 65%, and the potential flooding in the Tulare lake bottom in Kings County.

As of today, all indicators of water supply are above normal.  Way above.  Currently, the statewide snowpack is at 164% of average, while statewide rainfall is over 200% of average to date, with Blue Canyon in the northern Sierras at 245% and Mariposa in the central Sierras at 211% of average to date.   Reservoirs are all higher than average with Shasta at 87%, Oroville at 74%, New Melones at 77%, Don Pedro at 88%, and most importantly San Luis is at 98%.  Flood releases are occurring at many of these dams including Shasta, Oroville, Folsom, and Millerton.

Yet, with all of these positive factors, farmers relying upon the CVP water are only going to receive 65% of their allotment.  While industry is thankful for the water, it is inconceivable that the number isn’t closer to 80% or more.  Unfortunately, this will have a direct impact on the cotton plantings for this coming year.

According to preliminary planting intentions survey conducted by the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association this past month, the Association is currently estimating approximately 186,000 acres of pima and 70,000 acres of upland statewide for the 2017 cotton season.   This survey is based on surveys from all of the gins in California prior to planting and a lot can happen between now and when things are actually planted.  If it plays out, it will represent a 22% increase in pima acreage and a 6% increase in upland acreage in California as compared to 2016.