U.S. acreage planted to organic cotton in 2004 gained ground from that planted the previous year, according to a 2005 survey conducted by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and funded by a grant from Cotton Incorporated.

In results released today, OTA's organic cotton survey found 12 farmers grew and harvested organic cotton in the United States during 2004. Farmers in 2004 planted 5,550 acres of organic cotton, an increase of nearly 37 percent over the 4,060 acres planted in 2003. Plantings included 5,020 acres of organic upland cotton and 530 acres of organic pima cotton. Most was grown in Texas, with limited acreage in California, New Mexico and Missouri.

Acreage planted in 2005 totaled 6,577 acres of mostly upland organic cotton, an increase of 19 percent over that planted in 2004. Harvesting figures for 2005 are not yet available.

The survey was mailed to 52 people in seven states; 17 farmers returned completed surveys, with another four answering in phone interviews or by e- mail. Nine responding farmers did not grow organic cotton in 2004, while seven respondents were found not to be farmers. Only 12 of the respondents grew and harvested organic cotton in 2004. However, survey results for acreage and the number of growers may be lower than actual figures because only eight of the 16 members of the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative answered the survey.

Based on survey results and additional information from the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative, approximately 6,814 bales of organic cotton were harvested in 2004, compared with 4,628 bales harvested in 2003.

Respondents indicated that their biggest challenge in marketing organic cotton is competition from international organic cotton producers. The average price per pound received by farmers during 2004 ranged from 90 cents to $1.10 for organic upland cotton. Organic pima cotton prices ranged from $1.35 to $1.60 during 2004.

Respondents expressed the need for more educational resources on organic farming from local cooperative extension offices. Their chief resources for staying current with organic standards were communications with other farmers and resources provided by OTA. Asked what can be done to improve support for the long-term sustainability of organic cotton farms, they cited stable and sustainable prices, as well as more marketing efforts and further education to consumers and the supply chain concerning the value of organic cotton.

The mission of the Organic Trade Association is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy. OTA envisions organic products becoming a significant part of everyday life, enhancing people's lives and the environment. As a membership- based business association, the Organic Trade Association focuses on the organic business community in North America. OTA's more than 1,600 members include farmers, processors, importers, exporters, distributors, retailers, certifiers, and more. For further information, visit OTA's web site at http://www.ota.com and its consumer web site at http://www.theorganicreport.org.

Source: Organic Trade Association