Members of the Oklahoma Cotton Council, who represent producers, ginners and warehousemen, are taking seriously producer survey predictions of large increases in cotton acreage across Oklahoma and surrounding areas.

Harvey Schroeder, OCC executive director, explains that several reasons, including the National Cotton Council producer survey, explain why more farmers are expected to either increase their cotton acres or add cotton production as a new endeavor.

"There is a big demand for cotton around the world right now," Schroeder said. "Increased demand has depleted the world supply of cotton and in response, cotton prices have increased. At the same time NCC statistics tell cotton acreage will increase in the Southwest, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

"It is predicted cotton acreage in these three states will make up almost 55 percent of the cotton grown in the United States in 2010. Oklahoma's cotton acreage could increase as much as 25 percent, compared to last year."

Plains Cotton Cooperative Association., headquartered in Lubbock, Texas, has cotton storage warehouses in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Recent increases in cotton production in the three states encouraged PCCA to increase storage capacity.

However, a significant increase in cotton production in the three-state area this year could strain the farmer-owned organization's current storage capacity.

“Stronger cotton prices and weaker grain prices have caused a lot of farmers in our trade territory to look at increasing their cotton acres or planting cotton for the first time in quite a few years.” says Jay Cowart, manager of the PCCA cotton storage warehouse in Altus, Okla.

"The moisture situation throughout our growing area is as good as many people can remember it ever being. A large percentage of cotton yields in our area is determined by the moisture we have available at the beginning of the season. Great moisture conditions and much improved economics have us planning for a crop that will probably exceed our storage capacity."

This could be another record year for cotton ginners.

Jeannie Hileman, manager, Farmers Cooperative Gin, Carnegie, Okla., anticipates more big production numbers.

"Our board members were talking about the expected 25 percent increase in Oklahoma cotton acreage this year," she said. "Of course, that is acres, not bales at the end of the season we’re talking about; there is a lot of weather to get through before harvest.

"But we have plenty of subsurface moisture in dryland cotton fields now, an excellent start before planting begins. We‘re looking at a need for more gin machinery. Last year, we ginned 60 percent more bales than the year before. Another 25 to 26 percent this year would stretch our capacity to take care of our clients.

"And the excellent outlook for cotton prices this year would give our farmers a good opportunity to get good prices for a cotton crop that would help them rotate their wheat ground, get rid of persistent weeds that affect winter wheat and also let the cotton plant's taproot improve the tilth of their fields."

Increased cotton acres are expected in far southwestern Oklahoma, according to Barney Trammell, manager of the Eldorado, Okla., Farmers Cooperative Association., Eldorado, Okla.

"We are looking at a 30 percent increase in cotton acreage here this year, about 2,000 more acres," he said."That doesn't include what farmers might do with wheat ground after they harvest this spring. There will be more acres planted to cotton than was in wheat because of the good cotton prices now being discussed."

Farther east in Tillman County, David Lingle, gin manager for the Tillman Producers Cooperative, Frederick, Okla., is still surveying what effect expected changes in cotton production will have there, but he sees definite changes coming.

"We are still checking out what will happen. We know the NCC producers’ survey predicts a cotton planting increase of more than 25 percent in Oklahoma. Here in Tillman County, the winter wheat fields are still too wet for farmers to fertilize the crop. If they aren't able to top dress for increased yields, we will see lots of cotton planted behind the wheat.

"And there is a lot of corn planted here to be harvested for dairy cattle feed. The corn must be planted next month. If fields are still too wet to plant corn, there will be even more cotton planted. But it is still too early to know how much extra cotton will be planted here. I know we have had some good turnouts with farmers attending our cottonseed meetings, so we know there is a lot of interest in growing the crop this year."

In western Oklahoma, Ryan Sawatsky, manager of the Burns Flat, Okla., Cooperative Association., sees more cotton being grown along I-40 where his clients farm.

"We will see an increase of about 30 percent in cotton acreage here," he said. "Most of it will be farmers who are already growing cotton and some will be farmers just starting to grow the crop. Most of the acreage has been laid out, anticipating planting cotton this spring.

"We ginned 6,000 bales in 2009, twice the amount in 2008. An increase of 30 percent in cotton acreage this spring will probably give us more bales in the fall, but I don't know how much yet."