This industry classification includes establishments primarily engaged in the production of cotton and cottonseed.
Farmers' cotton production was approximately 21.3 million bales in the 2006-2007 season—for an 11 percent drop from the 2005-06 record-setting 23.9 million bales—from about 15.3 million acres planted and 12.8 million acres harvested. Cotton alone is instrumental in more than 40 percent of worldwide fiber production. Other components that are critical to cotton farming are whole cottonseed and cottonseed meal, used to make feed for livestock, dairy cattle, and poultry at a rate of more than 9 billion pounds on average, as well as the more than 154 million gallons of cottonseed oil generated annually for food products such as margarine and salad dressing. According to the National Cotton Council, cotton injects an estimated $120 billion in business revenue into the national economy. In 2005, the United States exported 16.4 million bales of cotton, representing more than 40 percent of worldwide totals.
Seventeen southern states provide the U.S. cotton supply with Texas as the largest cotton producer in 2006 followed by Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Delta and Pine Land Co. (DLP) in Scott, Mississippi, leads the industry, posting 2006 sales of nearly $418 million with more than 500 employees. The company developed a type of cottonseed called Bollgard, which was a pest-resistant variety. Other industry leaders were Gerli and Co. of New York, Coalinga, California-based Harris Farms Inc., and Roche Manufacturing Company Inc. of Dublin, Georgia
The 2002 Census of Agriculture, updated every five years by the U.S. Census, reported an estimated 24,805 cotton farms, down from the 1997 total of 33,640 cotton farms. The number of acres harvested shrunk from about 14 million to 12 million as did the number of bales (18.7 million bales in 1997 to 17.1 million bales in 2002). Cotton farms of greater than 500 acres harvested comprised about a third of the total number of cotton farms while 60 percent were between 25 and 499 acres.
Dun & Bradstreet reported in 2006 that the industry's estimated 4,440 establishments posted annual sales of nearly $1.96 billion with about 16,499 employees. Mississippi led with more than $513 million in sales followed by California with $418 million in sales and Texas in third with about $296 million in sales.
Earliest records of domesticated cotton, or gossypium, date back to 5000 B.C. and traces of cotton processed into cloth have been found in Peru with the estimated date of 2500 B.C. Since the eighteenth century, the United States has been a leading producer of cotton, usually the second largest. Virginian colonists grew and exported small amounts of cotton since the founding of the colony in 1607, using imported seed from the West Indies. However, it was the invention of Eli Whitney's cotton gin in 1793 that allowed cotton to become a major component of the American economy. According to Harold Woodman, author of King Cotton and His Retainers, exports of cotton increased from 500,000 pounds in 1793 to more than 90 million pounds in 1810. In the three decades preceding the American Civil War, cotton production accounted for more than half of the nation's exports. Spurred by continuing worldwide demand, U.S. cotton production and acres planted grew steadily until peaking in 1925, when 45 million acres of American soil were planted with cotton. By the early 1990s U.S. mills annually consumed some 4 billion pounds of cotton.
Two kinds of cotton are grown in the United States: American upland cotton, which...