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USDA Report: Arizona Cotton Rebounds, Wheat Falls In 2016

Cottonseed
(Photo by Casey Kuhn - KJZZ)
Arizona Farmer Brandon Brooks holds up a seed. He bites them to test whether they crack, and if they do, the cotton is ready to harvest.

Two thousand sixteen was a good year for corn growers in Arizona. There were record high yields of grain corn, with farmers producing more than 10 million bushels for the first time ever, according to the recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual report.

And, a better year for cotton: Arizona’s cotton farmers harvested a third more cotton than the year before.

USDA state statistician Dave DeWalt says cotton is slowly making a comeback after growers turned away from the crop because of low prices.

“The cotton rebounded, mainly the Upland cotton, rebounded from last year’s nearly record low acreage, and these (records) go back to 1923, something like that.”

In 2015, farmers planted fewer cotton acres than ever before, because of low prices. The harvest increased by a third on just over a 100,000 acres across the state.

“We’re nowhere near the production levels we were 20 years ago maybe, when we were at 500-600,000 bales," DeWalt said. "This year we’re looking at 390,000 bales, total production.”

While cotton numbers are up, lemon production is forecast to be down this year, and farmers produced a third less wheat in 2016.

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Casey Kuhn reports from KJZZ’s West Valley Bureau. She comes to Phoenix from the Midwest, where she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.Kuhn got her start in radio reporting in college at the community public radio station, WFHB. She volunteered there as a reporter and worked her way up to host the half-hour, daily news show. After graduating, she became a multimedia reporter at Bloomington's NPR/PBS station WFIU/WTIU, where she reported for and produced a weekly statewide news television show.Since moving to the Southwest, she’s discovered a passion for reporting on rural issues, agriculture and the diverse people who make up her community.Kuhn was born and raised in Cincinnati, where her parents instilled in her a love of baseball, dogs and good German beer. You’ll most likely find her around the Valley with a glass of prosecco in one hand and a graphic novel in the other.She finds the most compelling stories come from KJZZ’s listeners.