The cost of your T-shirts at Wal-Mart probably won't be affected, but somewhere down the line a reduction in cotton acreage is going to have an effect on certain markets; like Q-tips, maybe. Experts already forecast that 10 percent or more of North Carolina's cotton acreage will be lost to biofuel plants next year. With ethanol and biodiesel production driving up the demand and price for corn and soybeans, farmers in the Southeastern states are likely to convert some of their lands. Holding back even more aggressive losses is the high cost of equipment needed to make the switch. Also, while there have been numerous announcements of forthcoming ethanol and biodiesel plant construction, only one has actually broken ground there. Farmers may be hesitant to convert if there's no production. If there is a large shift toward biofuel plants, cotton gins will suffer not only through the loss of cotton sales but they also provide livestock feed from byproducts. So do ethanol plants.

[Roy Robertson / Southeast Farm Press]

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