Revised April 2022.
Cotton is the single most important textile fiber in the world, accounting for about 35 percent of all fibers produced. The United States remains a major producer of cotton for the international market, ranking third behind China and India. The United States also remains the leading cotton exporter in the world. Six countries--Brazil, China, India, Pakistan, Turkey and the United States--are the top consumers of the world’s cotton. (ERS)
Cotton is produced in 17 states. Texas consistently produces the most cotton, followed by Georgia and Mississippi.
Two types of cotton are grown in the United States: American upland (Gossypium hirsutum) and American pima (Gossypium barbadense), or extra-long staple (ELS) cotton. The predominant type of cotton grown is upland, which accounts for about 97 percent of U.S. production. The top producers of upland cotton in 2016 were (in order by volume): Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, and Oklahoma (NASS 2021). The balance of the U.S. crop is ELS or pima cotton, which is mainly produced in California.
As production became increasingly concentrated, the USDA grouped cotton-producing states into four regions. The Southwest region (Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas) typically produces the most upland cotton. The Delta region (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee) generally ranks as the number two producer of U.S. upland cotton, followed by the Southeast region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Virginia). The West (Arizona, California and New Mexico) usually produces the least amount of upland cotton.
U.S. cotton production in 2021 was 18.3 million bales (1 bale = 480 pounds). Upland cotton production was 16.5 million bales, and ELS/pima production was 568,050 bales. (NASS 2021)
Global cotton production in 2021 totaled 120.3 million bales. China and India, the world’s largest producing countries, harvested slightly more cotton while the United States produced almost 5 million more bales in 2021 compared to 2020. (NASS 2021)
Recent technological advances—like biotechnology, variety improvements, and the success of the boll weevil eradication program—have increased cotton productivity across the United States. More intensive management systems and increased area under irrigation have also raised U.S. cotton productivity.
China, India, Pakistan and the United States have all adopted Bt cotton seed. The impact in India has been especially remarkable. According to the government of India, genetically modified cotton now accounts for more than an estimated 70 percent of total cotton acreage in India. (ERS)
In 2021, the average price received by farmers for upland cotton was $.58 cents per pound, which was about 5 cents lower from 2016.
Cotton seed is processed into cottonseed vegetable oil for cooking; cottonseed meal, a high-protein supplement for livestock; and cottonseed hulls, a roughage for cattle feed. A ton of cotton seed yields about 320 pounds of oil, 910 pounds of meal and 540 pounds of hulls. (National Cottonseed Products Association)
Cottonseed oil is one of the country's most important sources of vegetable oil. After being extracted from cotton seeds by presses or by solvents, the oil is used as a salad oil, a cooking oil or a shortening or margarine. In the United States, cottonseed oil is primarily used as a salad or cooking oil. More than one billion pounds of cottonseed oil are produced yearly, placing the oil third in volume behind soybean oil and corn oil.
Cottonseed meal is valued as a source of protein for livestock, especially beef cattle, dairy cows and sheep. It provides three to six times the protein of most grains. The meal may be sold in the form of meal, cake, flakes or pellets. Some cottonseed meal is also used as a fertilizer for use on lawns, flower beds and gardens. Cottonseed meal competes with other protein meals like soybean meal and sunflower meal.
Used mainly as feed for livestock, cottonseed hulls serve as roughage rather than as a supplement. Their bulk makes shipping expensive, so the hulls are generally used in cotton-producing areas. Cottonseed hulls can also be used in petroleum refining and plastics manufacturing.
Agricultural Projections to 2021 Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA, 2012 - The Baseline Briefing Room provides 10-year baseline projections for the agricultural sector. Projections cover agricultural commodities, agricultural trade and indicators, such as farm income and food prices.
Annual Economic Outlook for Cotton, National Cotton Council.
Cotton and Wool Outlook, ERS, USDA.
Cotton and Wool Yearbook: Dataset, ERS, USDA.
Cotton: World Markets and Trade, Foreign Ag Service (FAS), USDA.
Crop Production Annual Summary, National Ag Statistics Service (NASS), USDA.
Crop Values Annual Summary, NASS, USDA.
Global Ag Trade System, FAS, USDA.
National Cottonseed Products Association.
Cotton Council International
National Cotton Council of America