Cotton farmers face the 2012 planting season in slightly better shape than they were a year ago.

“We see some guarded optimism,” says Steve Verett, executive vice president, Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., Lubbock, Texas.

“We’re not where we need to be, and some places on the High Plains are still very dry, but nowhere is it as dry as it was last year.”

Over the past few weeks, a few farmers who summer fallowed fields last year—partly due to failed cotton—have found a soil profile in pretty good shape, in spite of continuing dry conditions.

Irrigated acreage, where farmers tried to make a crop last summer, are not in as good shape, he says. “But overall, the land worked up much better than it did in 2011.”

Verett says 2012 has produced “a more typical spring. The Dallas Metroplex area gets rain and it starts backing up to the West. That’s what we’ve been seeing. Also, the long-range forecast shows La Nina fading so we should have at least an equal chance for rain.”

April will tell the tale, however. As the days begin to count down in April, farmers will be looking for rain. Irrigated farmers like to plant in May and would like a good planting rain to get the crop started.

He says dryland farmers to the south have a little more time, until June 10 in some cases, to plant cotton. “Dryland farmers can plant dry, and if they get some timely rainfall, they can make a decent crop.”

Farmers are also cautiously optimistic about prices although “supply and demand numbers are pretty troubling. But the price, at least so far, has held up at reasonable levels. It’s not where it was in 2010 or at harvest in 2011 but December futures are still holding at 90 cents, so cotton is holding its own.”