Top 10 Cotton States in Area, Production, Yield & Value in 2012

(Editor’s note:  For the most recent year’s production numbers, please see this post Which states produce the most cotton? Acres, Pounds & More that will be updated mid January annually.)

My friend David Hayden asked me today whether I had a top 10 list of cotton states. He tweeted:

I didn’t have a top 10 post and as I sat down to research and write it, I began pondering how in the world I could work that out. I am sure that this sounds like a super easy question to lots of people but I had several ways to think about a top 10 so rather than do one, I am going to do a few of them. You can see some of the options in the text of the latest USDA Crop Production Report’s national numbers for 2012 (for 2014 cotton production, please see this post):

All cotton production is forecast at 17.7 million 480-pound bales, up 13 percent from last year. Yield is expected to average 784 pounds per harvested acre, down 6 pounds from last year. Upland cotton production is forecast at 17.0 million 480-pound bales, up 15 percent from 2011. Pima cotton production, forecast at 663,000 bales, is down 22 percent from last year. Producers expect to harvest 10.8 million acres ofall cotton, up 14 percent from 2011. This harvested total includes 10.6 million acres of Upland cotton and 233,400 acres of Pima cotton.

Top 10 Cotton States in Acreage / Area to Harvest in 2012

This year, farmers in the US had some reductions in cotton acres as more farmers in the Cotton Belt looked to make money planting a corn crop. That seems to have worked well for quite a few of them too. There were more than 10.8 million acres planted to my favorite fiber though with almost half of those acres in Texas! Georgia was another big area for cotton planting and we will see whether or not Hurricane Isaac has any impact on the anticipated 1.2 million acres to be harvested there. (All numbers listed in thousands.) Cotton acres harvested by state averaged over time

  1. Texas                   5,215.5
  2. Georgia               1,245
  3. Arkansas             570
  4. Mississippi          570
  5. North Carolina   545
  6. Alabama              387
  7. Tennessee          375
  8. California            363
  9. Missouri              355
  10. South Carolina   278
The accompanying color coded map from the USDA-NASS is coded for the average over time.

Top 10 Cotton States in Production / Total Number of Bales in 2012

With the incredible number of acres Texas has, it is probably no surprise that the Lone Star state takes the lead in the number of cotton bales produced! In fact, many of the top 10 states in terms of acreage do well in showing up production-wise. Note: cotton bales weigh an average of 480 pounds each and can make a lot of awesome textiles!

  1. Texas                   6,725
  2. Georgia               2,400
  3. Arkansas             1,200
  4. California            1,145
  5. Mississippi          1,100
  6. North Carolina   950
  7. Missouri              675
  8. Arizona                658
  9. Tennessee          590
  10. Alabama              580

Top 10 Cotton States Per Acre Production / Yield in Pounds Per Acre in 2012

You can see from this year’s numbers as well as the averages over time that areas of the Cotton Belt where weather was good for production really excelled compared to the traditional deep South areas where drought was a problem in 2012. Arizona and California tend to produce high pounds per acre whereas some of the other areas can tend to be a bit more variable.

cotton yield in pounds by state averaged over time

  1. Arizona                1,564
  2. California            1,514
  3. New Mexico       1,058
  4. Arkansas             1,011
  5. Mississippi          926
  6. Georgia               925
  7. Virginia                914
  8. Missouri              913
  9. Louisiana            873
  10. Florida                 857

Value of Cotton by State

Obviously, with that many acres, bales, and pounds, cotton is a major part of the economy in several states. I stumbled on this map of the value averaged over time and thought I simply had to put this map in the post too. It appears that the top states are:

  • Texas
  • California
  • Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi
  • Arizona and Tennessee
  • Alabama and Missouri

What do you want to know about cotton?

I hope this gives you some cotton info to think about…. next up, I really need to write one about how cotton farmers spread their harvest cause my friend at The Cotton Boll Conspiracy has waited so patiently for an answer to his question! I’ve had to gather a few other opinions on that one as it’s not as cut and dry as the top 10 by the numbers! I’ll be more prompt in answering other questions. 🙂

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About Janice Person

I'm Janice & this blog is about my passions -- photography, travel, agriculture & whatever else comes to mind. Putting all those things together is intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking it up! It's almost always a colorful adventure!

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18 Responses to Top 10 Cotton States in Area, Production, Yield & Value in 2012

  1. dadblunders August 28, 2012 at 1:36 am #


    I have one for you that I am curious now because of this post and the top ten states in 2012. How much cotton is produced worldwide on a yearly basis and what are the top countries…also since we are on that…how much cotton does the U.S export a year? Do we import cotton too? (I honestly don’t know the answer but I know some items we actually do both) You peaked my curiosity….hopefully it won’t be to much trouble.


    P.S. Being a social worker i would be glad to take any family or childhood development question in retaliation for this…lol 🙂

    • Janice Person August 28, 2012 at 9:26 am #

      Well have mercy! I have some work to do now! Thanks. Hope you can be patient cause that looks like I will need a little research time!

      • dadblunders August 30, 2012 at 10:13 pm #


        I am more than patient! I know you have been super busy too. your post just peaked my curiosity about it now.


  2. Ryan Goodman August 29, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    This is cool! I knew Arkansas was big in cotton, but I never made the connection that it would be in the Top 3 or 4 in production categories! Cool! I learned something today!

  3. Harry Sandlin January 16, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    In a good year Limestone County, Alabama will produce three bales per acre.

  4. Gary Allsbrook March 4, 2014 at 7:53 am #

    I do not understand why the farmer does not seem to get there fare share.if cotton is 80 cents a pound how much does a 30 dollar shirt weigh

  5. Anonymous June 2, 2016 at 4:41 pm #

    how much irrigation is used to grow cotton. Is this reasonable in AZ,CA,NM,OK without subsidized water supplies?

  6. P.D. Roche September 5, 2016 at 8:12 am #

    Hi Janice- Ran across your blog while looking for a list of farmers producing Cotton in the U.S.
    We design and mfg.(in the U.S. only) 100% Cotton fashions for women in menopause because as you know it allows our hot bodies to breathe and is so comfortable! Heard there is a woman in Texas farming Cotton? If you know of her or any small farms I would love to meet her or them and combine efforts.
    Thank you.

    • Janice Person September 5, 2016 at 9:32 am #

      There is a contact form on my site that provides you a way to send me an email…. If you would like to explain what you’d like to do working with a cotton farmer, I would be glad to pass it along. I know several women who farm, gin, etc but can’t tell what you are trying to do.


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