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Cotton plays big in Georgia


Table of Contents:

  • Cotton’s farm gate value is about $1.5 billion each year in Georgia. That’s real money, but its monetary swing is even heavier and goes farther.
  • Georgia cotton acreage usually stays above 1 million planted acres.

I knew cotton played big in Georgia, but I was surprised to learn just how much economic weight King Cotton throws around, pumping a $2.5 billion waterfall into the state’s economic flow each year. But will it continue to do so?

Cotton is Georgia's No. 1 row crop in farm-gate value and it comes in second or third each year in total agriculture value. Georgia’s poultry and egg production, worth $4 billion, has securely kept the No. 1 economic value rank in Georgia ag for many years.

Cotton’s farm gate value is about $1.5 billion each year. That’s real money, but its monetary swing is even heavier and farther when you consider broader economic factors. That’s what the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development did. They considered cotton’s economic footprint, and it’s a considerable one. 

The Georgia Cotton Commission funded the study. The report concluded last summer but Sharon Kane with the CAED gave the results at the commission’s annual meeting on Jan. 22.

The study charts cotton production economic impact in Georgia from the farm level backward, looking at things like the value of cotton and cottonseed production, the purchases necessary to generate production (inputs and agricultural services), and household spending by farmers and support industry employees.

This study doesn’t look at cotton’s economic impacts from the farm gate forward, which would consider things like textile manufacturing, shipping and exporting, cottonseed processing, and all the other things that take place before a piece of cotton fiber rubs up against someone’s birthday suit. You figure all of that economic factoring and cotton’s impact is likely much larger. But this particular study didn’t take that figuring on.

The report uses the 2011 cotton production value, or $1.5 billion. Adding in all the above gets you the additional economic contribution of $2.5 billion, meaning a dollar’s worth of cotton production ends up being worth about $1.64 as it grows, ebbs or flows through the economy.

Georgia cotton production is supported by an infrastructure that includes ginning and warehousing, transportation, input supply outfits, machinery and equipment sales and service, financing and other job-generating enterprises. The study figures cotton gets credit for about 15,400 jobs in Georgia.

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