California cotton is a big industry for the state. Cotton production in accounts for roughly $3.5 billion dollars annually pumped into California’s economy. Over 20,000 people are employed directly in the production of cotton. Approximately 137,000 additional jobs are created indirectly as a result of the California cotton industry.
Cotton is grown in California in three main regions including the San Joaquin Valley, Southern Desert Valleys and the Sacramento Valley. The San Joaquin Valley is the primary cotton growing spot, featuring seven counties which are major cotton producers. Fresno County is the number one cotton growing county in California.
California offers a wonderful climate that is near ideal for optimum cotton growth. The warm sun is plentiful during much of the year in California which affords cotton the long growing season it needs. The soil in certain regions of California is fertile, well draining, yet can still hold water well, making it ideal for cotton. The dry California climate is perfect for growing cottons like Pima.
At its peak, California featured 1.5 million acres of cotton farmland. California cotton growing has been on the decline. In California, cotton crops are being replaced by pistachios, almonds, walnuts, grapes, alfalfa, and corn crops instead. California cotton is still the state’s second most valuable crop.
Of those growers who still plant cotton, many have been electing to grow extra-long staple crops of Pima cotton, as it is in high demand and can command premiums prices per pound. In fact, California is the largest Pima cotton growing area in the United States.
As a result, California grows much of the best cotton in the world.
Currently there are around 60 active cotton gins remaining in California.,1963 was the peak year with 299 active cotton gins in California. While the numbers do reflect a decline, each gin also becomes more efficient and more productive as time goes on.
California produces approximately 2 to 2.5 million bales of cotton per year. There are about 1400 farms growing cotton in California on an average of 500 acres per farm. California is frequently the second highest producing state yearly. California cotton makes up about 10 to 14 percent of cotton production nationally in the United States. The yields of California cotton are extremely impressive as compared to a national average of 615 pounds of cotton per planted acre. California farms produce 1300 pounds per acre.
Cotton is an annual crop in California, being planted anew each spring. California cotton is typically planted beginning in March and completed by May 1st. California cotton is fully irrigated and is picked by machines. The majority, approximately 80 to 85 percent of California cotton will be shipped overseas to Southeast Asia.
Many types of products are made from the processed cotton that is produced in California. Typical products include dresses, high quality shirts and premium quality bedding. California’s Pima cottons are used for very fine, luxury fabrics. 600,000 tons of cottonseeds, a crop byproduct, are produced each year in California. 95% of this California cottonseed is fed to cattle. The rest is made into cottonseed oil.