Prices were volatile, government agriculture policy was in question, and synthetic fiber threatened to steal market share. It was 1945. Georgia cotton farmers harvested 1.25 million acres, averaged 257 pounds per acre, and received an average of 23 cents per pound for the effort. The next year, 1946, they harvested 1.2 million acres, averaged 221 pounds per acre, and the market rebounded to 34 cents per pound, a record price up to that time.
Seven decades later, some things haven’t changed much. As cotton harvest gets underway today, take a minute to look back at what cutting-edge cotton harvesting looked like in Georgia after World War II, as mechanical pickers were being introduced across the region and planes started defoliating cotton.
According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Georgia cotton farmers produced a record 2.8 million bales on 4.9 million acres in 1911. The boll weevil arrived four years later and reduced the state’s yield average by 30 percent.
“The New Deal's Agricultural Adjustment Act reduced cotton acreage in the state, with the hope of driving up the price of the staple crop, but the acreage reductions also decreased the need for labor," the encyclopedia says
"Tractors, beginning in the 1930s, and mechanical cotton pickers decades later, further disrupted cotton production and the lives of those who worked in the fields. Cotton prices worldwide began to fall during the middle of the century as viable synthetic alternatives decreased demand for the fiber.”