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Report: Cotton production to be down

NEW ORLEANS – U.S. cotton production is expected to hit 13.5 million bales, down nearly one-third from last year, after farmers planted fewer acres in favor of higher-price crops and felt the hit from hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in a report released Monday, says only Alabama and Virginia expect to produce more cotton this year. Production in three states — Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — is expected to be down drastically.

Production forecasts were down a bit from last month, as harvest continued and farmers had a better sense for what was in their fields.

Many farmers have swapped traditional cotton acreage to corn or soybeans, crops that had been seeing far better prices than those available for labor-intensive, expensive-to-produce cotton.