Project Summaries

01-995  Project Manager: J. M. Reeves


Angela Jagiello, Organic Trade Association

In December 2012, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) identified 83 people and businesses thought to grow organic cotton in Arizona, California, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Texas, and mailed a survey to them to identify trends in U.S. organic cotton farming. Average farm size is 525 acres (ranging from 14-3,200). The survey collected data on 2011 U.S. organic cotton production and marketing and preliminary information on 2012 organic cotton production. The Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative (TOCMC) also provided extensive data for this report.

U.S. organic cotton production contracted in 2011, due in large part to the sweeping drought in the Southern Plains. While acres planted to organic cotton rose 36% from 11,827 in 2010 to 16,050 in 2011, acres harvested plunged to 6,151 - with nearly two thirds of the planted crop abandoned to drought. As a result, 7,259 bales were harvested in 2011, representing a 45% reduction in the overall U.S. organic cotton harvest for that year. (At time of final report writing, 2012 harvested acres were unknown.) The majority of the U.S. organic cotton crop for 2011 was planted to upland cotton, with pima cotton representing fewer than 1,000 planted acres.

A predominance of survey respondents reported receiving $1.50 per pound for organic upland cotton, with prices reaching as high as $3.00 for organic pima cotton. These prices were roughly in line with U.S. organic cotton prices for the past several years. It is important to remember that while the U.S. supply of organic cotton was dramatically lessened in 2011, cotton remains one of the most volatile global organic commodities. Thus while drought conditions severely decreased the U.S. organic cotton supply, the same was not true for all international organic cotton suppliers, some of which were able to deliver organic cotton to the U.S. for less than the price of domestic organic cotton.

Commercial availability of organic seed is a major hurdle for organic cotton producers. Genetically Modified (GM) seeds have become dominant in the marketplace as major seed companies have purchased smaller labels and discontinued their organic, non-GM and non-treated cotton seed offerings.

On a positive note, 2011 represented the first crop year in which USDA's Risk Management Agency allowed organic producers to opt for an "Organic Price Election," when purchasing multi-peril crop insurance. This meant that, for an additional premium, organic farmers were compensated at a rate of $.37 per pound higher than the rate at which conventional cotton was trading in the region. Cotton is one of a very few crops where organic growers have the option of insuring their crops at a higher rate than their conventional counterparts. 

The Southern Plains drought that devastated the 2011 organic cotton crop continued into 2012. However, it appeared to have taken a less extreme toll on cotton in 2012. While 14,481 acres were planted to organic cotton in the U.S. in 2012, final harvest numbers are not yet available.


Project Year: 2012

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