Cotton is a versatile crop used in a wide range of products in the textile, apparel, and consumer products industries – everything from blue jeans to bed sheets to coffee filters to book bindings can be made from cotton. Cotton is even found inside your wallet – 75% of the material used to create U.S. money is cotton. Unlike many other materials, cotton gets stronger when wet, making cotton-based products incredibly durable.
In the U.S., annual retail revenue stimulated by cotton exceeds $120 billion — making cotton America’s No. 1 value-added crop. Cotton is primarily grown in 17 states stretching across the southern third of the U.S., from Virginia to California. Texas is the top producer.
Cotton’s Journey from Field to T-Shirt
Farming: Farmers harvest cotton using specialized equipment, pressing it into bales. At this stage, fluffy white cotton still contains seeds.
Ginning: Cotton gins separate seeds from cotton fibers. Cotton seeds can be used for a variety of products, including cooking oils and animal feed. The remaining fibers, known as lint, are baled and shipped to other processors, including spinners.
Exporting: The U.S. is the world’s largest raw cotton exporter, accounting for about 35% of the global export market. China, India, and Bangladesh are the top importers. Manufacturing: Manufacturers, both in the U.S. and abroad, spin cotton into yarn to create fabric, which is used to make T-shirts and other products. Finished products are then shipped to U.S. companies that supply the retail market.
Retailing: Clothing stores and online outlets sell T-shirts and other finished products directly to consumers.