Why Is It Illegal To Grow Cotton In Some States?

Professional cotton growers have aggressive measures in place to combat boll weevils. If a backyard grower allows the pests to get established, it could threaten the commercial cotton crop. Read on to learn more on why is it illegal to grow cotton in some states.

Backyard Cotton Growing Is Illegal In Several States

Cotton is a cash crop in many states in the USA, and our economy is somewhat dependent on successful cotton growth. That’s why it’s important to keep boll weevils (a devastating cotton pest) under tight control. For this reason, growing cotton just for fun in big cotton states is against the law.

What States Outlaw Recreational Cotton Growing?

Although the specific states outlawing amateur cotton growing change from time to time, the ones that remain pretty constant are:

  1. North Carolina
  2. South Carolina
  3. New Mexico
  4. Mississippi
  5. Tennessee
  6. California
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Arkansas
  9. Alabama
  10. Louisiana
  11. Missouri
  12. Virginia
  13. Arizona
  14. Georgia
  15. Florida
  16. Kansas
  17. Texas

Close collaboration between cotton producers has resulted in a sharp reduction in the threat posed by the boll weevil, and in the state of Alabama, hard work has resulted in the eradication of the pest according to the Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation.

As a way of supporting boll weevil eradication, Congress put the Boll Weevil Eradication Equity Act in place. This act states that cotton may not be grown for other than commercial purposes without a special waiver issued by the state’s plant board.

Commercial cotton (that grown only for sale) is grown in areas that are heavily monitored for boll weevil activity. If cotton is grown outside of these areas, it poses a real risk of reintroducing these pests, even to areas where it has been declared eradicated.

Is There Any Way To Grow A Small Cotton Crop Legally?

is there any way to grow a small cotton crop legally

Even a few plants grown for educational purposes could devastate local farmers and the state economy. Civic groups, teachers and others considering this sort of activity must contact their State Plant Board to request a waiver and register their cotton seed so that their project can be monitored.

In all of the cotton producing states, cotton growers have millions of dollars invested in their cotton crops and in eradicating the boll weevil population. For this reason, it is advised that cotton seed shouldn’t be distributed or sown in any non-monitored, non-commercial area.

How Can You Control Boll Weevils?

It’s easy for boll weevils to reinfest an area where they have been eradicated. They are invasive pests that eat cotton plants’ buds and blooms, as well as the actual cotton bolls. These beetles travel from place to place by hitching a ride on farm equipment and even on vehicles that visit cotton fields. They can also be blown about by high winds, tornadoes and hurricanes.

Because they can turn up and start reproducing and damaging cotton crops at any minute, it’s important for commercial cotton growers to know how to identify them and what to do to begin eradicating them as quickly as possible.

Commercial growers should keep traps in place and monitor them aggressively so that active eradication steps can be started immediately if/when a boll weevil is caught.


Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Farm & Animals since 2019. Farm animals have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.

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