Frequently Asked Questions

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(updated October 2013)

Cotton is a fiber, feed and food crop.

The fiber of a thousand faces and almost as many uses, cotton is noted for its versatility, its appearance, its performance and–above all–its natural comfort. From all types of apparel...to sheets and towels...tarpaulins and tents...cotton in today's fast-moving world is still nature's wonder fiber, providing thousands of useful products and supporting millions of jobs as it moves year after year from field to fabric.

U.S. textile mills have spun almost 3.6 million bales of cotton on average for the past 3 years (2010-2012). That's enough cotton to make over 750 million pairs of jeans.

About two thirds of the harvested crop is composed of the seed, which is crushed to separate its three products–oil, meal and hulls. Cottonseed oil is a common component of many food items, used primarily as a cooking oil, shortening and salad dressing. The oil is used extensively in the preparation of such snack foods as crackers, cookies and chips. The meal and hulls are used as livestock, poultry and fish feed and as fertilizer.

The following are some of the frequently asked questions about cotton:

1. Which state grows the most cotton?
Texas, whose 3-year average production was almost 5.5 million bales of cotton for the years 2010 through 2012, is the leading cotton-producing state.

2. Which country grows the most cotton?
Historically, China is the largest grower. China's 3-year average production for the years 2010 through 2012 was approximately 33 million bales of cotton. India is second, with 26.8 million bales of production for the same time period. The U.S. is third, with average production of 17.0 million bales of cotton for the years 2010 through 2012.

3. How much does a bale of cotton weigh?
A bale of cotton weighs about 500 pounds.

4. What is a module?
Once cotton is harvested, it is stored in modules –which hold 13 to 15 bales–for protection against the weather. Modules are stored in the field or on the gin yard until the cotton is ginned.

5. When is U.S. cotton planted?
Planting begins as early as Feb. 1 in South Texas and as late as June 1 in northern areas of the Cotton Belt.

6. How is cotton harvested?
Three mechanical systems are used to harvest cotton. Cotton picking machines use rotating spindles to pick (twist) the seed cotton from the burr. Doffers then remove the seed cotton from the spindles and drop the seed cotton into the conveying system. Cotton stripping machines use rollers equipped with bats and brushes to knock the open bolls from the plants into a conveyor. A third kind of harvester uses a broadcast attachment similar to a grain header on a combine. All harvesting systems uses air to elevate the seed cotton into a basket where it is stored until it can be dumped into a boll buggy, trailer or module builder. 

7. When is U.S. cotton harvested?
Harvesting of the crop begins in July in South Texas and extends to late November in more northern climates.

8. Where is cotton grown in the U.S.?
Cotton is grown in 17 states stretching across the southern half of the United States: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

9. What is produced from a bale of cotton?
One bale of cotton can make 1,217 men's T-shirts or 313,600 $100 bills. Click for a list of other items.

10. How many cotton farms are there in the U.S.?
Cotton is produced on about 18,600 farms in the U.S.

11. How many acres of cotton are harvested each year in the U.S.?
For the years 2010 through 2012, average harvested area was 9.8 million acres, producing an average 17.0 million bales.

12. What is a boll weevil?
The boll weevil is the primary insect enemy of cotton. An adult is ¼ to ½ inch long, appearing tan to dark brown or gray in color, has a hard humpback-shaped shell and the characteristic snout accounting for about ¼ of its length. This pest has plagued U.S. cotton producers since 1892. It can complete an entire lifecycle in three weeks, lay 200 eggs per female–each in a separate cotton square or boll, ensuring the destruction of each–and spread rapidly, covering 40 to 160 miles per year.

13. What is transgenic cotton?
Transgenic cotton is a cotton variety genetically altered by the addition of foreign genetic material (DNA) from another variety. Examples include cotton that is resistant to certain insects or herbicides.

14. What percentage of the U.S. cotton crop is planted in transgenic varieties?
In 2013, 99 percent of the U.S. upland crop was planted in transgenic varieties –genetically engineered varieties resistant to worms, herbicides, or both.

15. What percentage of the U.S. cotton crop is exported?
From 2010 through 2012, an average of 65 percent of the U.S. cotton supply was exported.

16. How much cotton is used by U.S. textile mills?
From 2010 through 2012, mills consumed an average of 3.6 million bales per year.

17. How much business revenue does the U.S. cotton crop stimulate?
Latest estimates indicate that the cotton industry generates $27 billion in revenues to various industry segments. Cotton's total economic activity is estimated at some $100 billion.

18. How do I obtain permission to use the Seal of Cotton? Seal of Cotton
The Seal of Cotton is the registered trademark of Cotton Incorporated, which grants permission for use. Please direct your request to Mr. John Morgans at www.cottoninc.com; by phone at 212-413-8300; or by mail at 488 Madison Ave., New York, NY, 10022.

19. How can I get video tapes or a soundtrack of the cotton commercials ("The Fabric of Our Lives")?
Tapes of the commercials, which are produced by Cotton Incorporated, may be obtained from Mr. Glen Sciachitano. To request a copy, call 212.413.8300 or visit www.cottoninc.com

20. Questions about cotton research, cotton care or consumer issues?
Contact Cotton Incorporated at www.cottoninc.com

21. How do I link to this site?

National Cotton Council of America Link and Logo Policy

NCC Logo on white backgroundThe Council encourages any state, regional or national agricultural organization to link its web site to www.cotton.org. These organizations may use the National Cotton Council logo or simply a line of text such as "The National Cotton Council of America" to provide the link to www.cotton.org.

Member companies providing links to the NCC website and which use the logo or the logo of The Cotton Foundation on their websites must incorporate a statement of membership as part of the logo. The statement should be along the lines of:

 In cases where only the NCC logo is used:
- We support the U.S. cotton industry as a member of the National Cotton Council of America.
- We are members of the National Cotton Council of America.

The Cotton FoundationIn cases where only the Foundation logo is used:
- We are members of The Cotton Foundation.
- We support The Cotton Foundation.
- We support the U.S. cotton industry as members of The Cotton Foundation.

In cases where both logos are used:
- We support the National Cotton Council of America through our membership in The Cotton Foundation.
- As a member of The Cotton Foundation, we support the U.S. cotton industry and the National Cotton Council of America.

22. How do I get a link from this site?
The National Cotton Council links to industry-related sites which provide information and services of interest to its membership. Council members with web sites may submit a request for a link by using our contact form. Requests for links to non-member sites will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

23. May I use information, photos, logos from this site?
Please submit your request online. Be sure to clearly state who you are, the organization you represent and the purpose of use. We appreciate proper attribution.

24. How do I purchase cotton bolls and bales?
These companies sell bolls and bales. Please place your order directly with either:
o Little Bales of Cotton at 800.748.9112,
o www.cottonman.com or
o Floral Cotton www.floralcotton.com 301.200.1999

25. How do I obtain raw cotton?
Check your local phone book for a cotton gin or cotton producer in your area.

26. How do I obtain various cotton fabrics?
Contact a mill directly. If you need assistance determining which fabric a particular mill produces, contact Cotton Incorporated at www.cottoninc.com to request a Mill Directory.

27. Questions about importing, exporting or buying U.S. Cotton?
Contact Cotton Council International at www.cottonusa.org or the American Cotton Shippers Association at www.ACSA-Cotton.org

28. Questions about cottonseed?
Contact the National Cottonseed Products Association at www.cottonseed.com

29. How do I purchase items featuring the Seal of Cotton, cotton artwork or other cotton specialties?
Several companies are licensed to sell these products. Please place your order directly with one of the following:
o Rosalyn Smith Designs 901.476.3584
o JoAnn JoAnn, Inc. 901.465.9763
o The Cotton Fields Company 800.883.6336
o Gene Malin Sales Company 800.513.1750
o Jack DeLoney Art Gallery 334.774.6877
o Gayle Strider Hartwood Gallery 256.773.2134
o Fields of Cotton 256.566.3598
o Tags and Tees 498-220-4902