Cotton is the basic resource for thousands of consumer and industrial products manufactured in the U.S. and throughout the world, and the contribution made by cotton to the food and fiber industry continues to grow in importance.
Cotton is grown in 17 states, stretching from Virginia to California, covering more than 12 million acres or about 19,000 square miles. From this combined acreage, the nation's cotton farmers annually harvest about 15 million bales or 7.3 billion pounds of cotton. Business revenue stimulated by the crop in the U.S. economy is estimated at some $100 billion.
The cotton industry is an important consumer of production inputs. At the farm level alone, the production of each year's crop involves the purchase of more than $5.8 billion worth of purchased inputs, labor, and equipment ... stimulating business activity for factories and enterprises throughout the country. In a typical year, U.S. cotton farmers invest more than $1.0 billion in fertilizers, $780 million in agricultural chemicals and $970 million in planting seed. They also pay out more than $2.2 billion in fuel and equipment and $170 million in farm labor.
Most of the crop (75 percent) goes into apparel, 18 percent into home furnishings and 7 percent into industrial products each year.
An often-overlooked component of the crop is the vast amount of cottonseed that is produced along with the fiber. Annual cottonseed production averages 5.2 million tons. More than 6 billion pounds of whole cottonseed and cottonseed meal are used in feed for livestock, dairy cattle and poultry. And 90 million gallons of cottonseed oil are used for food products ranging from margarine to salad dressing.
Overseas sales of U.S. cotton make a significant contribution to the reduction in the U.S. trade deficit. Annual values of U.S. cotton sold overseas recently have averaged $7 billion. The U.S. commonly supplies 12 million bales or more of the world's cotton exports, accounting for over 30 percent of the total world export market. The largest customers for U.S. raw cotton are in Asia, Mexico and Turkey.
The U.S. also exports more than 3.5 million bale equivalents of cotton textile products annually.
In addition to offering a national perspective on the industry, the World of Cotton data provides state, congressional district and county profiles as well. The number of businesses, jobs and the revenue they generate is available for each cotton-producing state.