Cotton, as defined by Glade, Meyer, and Stults in a 1996 United States Department of Agriculture publication, is "a soft white vegetable fiber obtained from the seed pod of the cotton plant, a member of the mallow family.  Cotton is produced in about 75 countries.  The two principal types of cotton grown in the United States are upland cotton and American Pima cotton," (p.144).


Cotton has a long history.  Archaeological and historical evidence shows the use of cotton as early as 5,800 B.C. in the Tehuacan Valley in Mexico (Elliot, Hoover, & Porter, 1968).  "These ancient remains of cotton culture show that the cultivation and manufacturing of cotton evolved independently in the Old World and in the New World," (Elliot, Hoover, & Porter, 1968, p. 3).  By tracing the evidence of cotton, it is estimated that cotton reached Texas in the early 1800s.  "During the nineteenth century and up to World War I, the traditional "Cotton Belt" was made up primarily of the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Texas," (Elliot, Hoover, and Porter, 1968, p. 9).


The United States produced about 18.3 million bales of cotton during the 2003 season (NASS-USDA, 2004). The cotton industry provides more than 400,000 jobs nationwide and generates $25 billion in economic support annually (ERS-USDA, 2004).


Keith Collins, the chief economist for the USDA in 1996, wrote:

“Cotton is the single most important textile fiber in the world, accounting for nearly 50 percent of total world fiber production.  Although some 80 countries produce cotton, the United States, China, India, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan account for about 75 percent of world production.  The United States produces about 20 percent of the world's cotton and uses 12 percent” (p. vi).


Collins also stated:


“Cotton production, marketing and manufacturing affect the lives of many people, from producers to consumers.  The 34,000 cotton producers scattered across the Cotton Belt from Virginia to California received about $4.1 billion during 1992-93 from the sale of cotton lint and an additional $600 million from the sale of cottonseed.  Ginning, warehousing, and marketing also provide significant sources of revenue and employment in local areas.  Moreover, many producers and merchandisers of pesticides, fertilizers, and machinery and equipment are involved.  Because cotton is a major raw material for the textile and apparel industries, spinners, weavers, finishers, and manufacturers of apparel and household and industrial products depend heavily on the cotton industry.  The estimated retail value of domestically produced cotton apparel products alone totals $18 billion to $20 billion a year” (p. vi).


"U.S. cotton acreage increased by more than 20 percent in the past decade, averaging 13.3 million acres since 1990.  This rise in total planted acreage reverses a 60-year decline" (Glade, et al., 1996, p. i). 


The census of agriculture, acting as a leading source of statistics about the United States' agricultural production, reported 5,221,561 total acres of cotton were harvested on 10,971 farms in Texas in 1997 (National Agricultural Statistics Service, 1999a).


Cotton is the leading cash crop in the state of Texas.  Of all 50 states, Texas leads in cotton production, generating a statewide economic impact of $5.2 billion.  Of that $5.2 billion, Texas farmers generate a $1.6 billion income (Smith & Anisco, 2002).  Texas farmers produce about 4.5 million bales annually (National Cotton Council, 2002). The High Plains region of Texas produced 2.18 million bales in 2003 (Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., n.d.).


"In this area [Texas], we have no choice but to grow cotton.  If we're going to be in agriculture, we're going to be in cotton.  We can grow cotton with less water than any other crop from an irrigated standpoint.  We can also grow dry land cotton.  When the irrigation water disappears, cotton won't disappear," (Kreig, personal communication, June 3, 2003).