HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-A lot of area farmers are finishing off their planting this week, but there's some big changes in terms of what's going in the ground this year.
Several north Alabama farmers are making significant cutbacks on total cotton acreage this season, citing rising production costs and a steady decline in the crop's overall value.
The crop that farmers jokingly call "white gold" has ruled agriculture in Alabama and the rest of the South for generations, but several growers are now turning to cheaper alternatives like wheat and soybeans.
Madison County farmer Rex Vaughn is one of the area's biggest cotton growers. In years past, cotton has made up well over ninety percent of Vaughn's total crop output, but this year it will make up only about half.
"King Cotton may be a thing of the past nowadays," said Vaughn. "In America you're going to see a serious decline in cotton acres, and the Tennessee Valley will see one of the biggest...We've typically always been cotton, pretty much growing cotton from one acre to the last, so it's kind of a change for us."
Famers say the cotton cutback will likely hit hired farmhands and cotton gins in the short-term, with consumers also potentially getting squeezed in the long run. Cotton is primarily used for clothing and textiles.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that total cotton production in the United States will fall by nineteen percent this year.