Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The New York Times yesterday ran a story on the front page of the Business section about how US farmers, seeing the higher cotton prices, are now dedicating their land to cotton. This means that land that used to grow wheat and other foodstuffs will be used for cotton; and it may or may not mean that cotton prices will go down, punishing the greedy farmers for their rush to cash in.
The article by William Neuman quotes one farmer, Ramon Vela, of the Texas panhandle, as saying he will plant 1,100 acres of cotton this year, up from 210 last year. The panhandle has not been a traditional cotton belt, but recently new strains of cotton that work well there have made cotton very popular there; too popular, and it is now a monocrop in some areas of North Texas; the state grows over one million acres; the US grew 10.8 last year, and this year is expected to grow 12.8 acres of this crop.
Cotton prices are the highest they have ever been, and this affects not just crude bolls, but all cotton based products. One textile researcher, Carol Webb in the UK, noted "Crochet cotton has risen in price out of all proportion to scarcity of raw cotton." It is called exponential increases. And we can expect more and more - but they may appear in the food prices now that cotton is set to flood the market.
As it floods the market, it empties the reservoirs; it is a thirsty crop, though it takes less water than corn. Texas growers will have to tap into the Ogallala Aquifer, which is already getting depleted.
So there is one crisis on top of another. Had we grown hemp, this would not be - and hemp is both a food and a textile crop, which uses less water than either corn or cotton.
But no one listened. So there. I hope you can afford to buy a shirt and something to eat. If so, you're lucky. More and more people can't , and it is due to those who push nuclear power, fossil fuels, and cotton whilst keeping hemp illegal.