ENGLAND, Ark (KTHV) -- According to the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Arkansas is the third largest cotton producing state in the country. But high planting costs and low returns have farmers quitting on the cotton crop.
From fertilizers to equipment, growing any crop is an expensive venture for farmers but cotton has become the most difficult.
"Cotton is a very important part of our operation. We hope that it can continue to be," says Dow Brantley, a third generation Arkansas farmer.
Brantley Farming Company began growing soybeans, rice, corn and cotton on their England farm in 1967. But today, of all the crops they produce, Brantley says it is cotton that worries him the most.
"It's a dying commodity it seems. Of all of our crops, it's the most expensive to grow, most time consuming, takes more labor per acre. It is a very challenging crop," says Brantley.
University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service Cotton Specialist, Dr. Tom Barber, says while mother nature is treating the commodity well so far this year, the market value is not.
"Last year, on average, the average farmer received almost a dollar per pound which is very good for a cotton crop. This year, right now I think the current value is 69 cents a pound," says Dr. Barber.
Barber says the smaller the profit, the smaller the crop. In 2006, Arkansas farmed nearly one million acres of cotton. Today, that number has dropped to 550,000 acres, cutting the crop nearly in half in just six years.
"It costs so much more today to grow it than it did 20 years, even 10 years ago and the risk associated with it versus the income you can make off of corn and soybeans, people just aren't that willing to take that risk anymore," says Brantley.
It is a risk Brantley says that may drive himself, along with others, to cut out the crop all together depending on next year's projections. It is a decision that could affect more than just the farmer's bottom line.
"What will it do to the jobs and the people? I don't know. That story is yet to be told but at least we have opportunities to grow something else," says Brantley.
Currently Texas is the largest cotton producing state in the country, growing between seven and eight million acres each year.