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.

Read also: How Much Water Does It Take To Grow Cotton?

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

why is it illegal to grow cotton in some states Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why are there legal restrictions on cotton cultivation in some places?

The reasons for restrictions on growing cotton vary. In some areas, environmental concerns and protection of ecosystems may prohibit growing cotton commercially. Likewise, drought conditions and general lack of water may lead to a prohibition on growing cotton. Fear of the spread of boll weevils may cause prohibitions on non-commercial cotton cultivation.

2. How does cotton farming harm the environment?

It takes a lot of water to grow cotton, and water is a finite resource. Using huge amounts of it to produce cotton can be injurious to native flora and fauna, not to mention people! In addition to using a lot of water, growing cotton also pollutes groundwater and streams because of chemical and pesticide runoff. Soil erosion is another negative environmental impact that is often associated with the commercial growth of cotton.

3. How does the regulation of cotton growth affect cotton prices?

In the United States, cotton quality is established and graded by the USDA and prices are set accordingly.

4. Are there different cotton cultivation regulations from one country to another?

Yes, regulations regarding cotton cultivation can vary between countries. Generally speaking, the rules and guidelines are based in economic and environmental concerns. For this reason, they will vary depending on factors such as water availability, presence of the boll weevil, economic needs of farmers, supply and demand and much more. It is very important that, no matter where in the world you are, if you want to plant cotton, you must get in touch with your local agricultural cooperative or authority and find out exactly which rules and regulations may apply to you.

5. What can be grown instead of cotton that is better for the environment?

In many areas, industrial hemp is an excellent cotton alternative. It takes a lot less land and a lot less water to grow hemp than cotton. There is also potentially a greater market for hemp because it can be purposed in all of the same ways as cotton and many more. Additionally, growing hemp can actually improve your soil. Sadly, many rules and regulations also apply to hemp production.


23 thoughts on “Why Is It Illegal To Grow Cotton In Some States?”

  1. I don’t understand why so many people want to grow this plant. There are just many more better plants for “recreational purposes”.

    • I just started growing cotton in my yard a few years ago. I grow it for the cotton. I pick and gin and clean and spin and weave the cotton. Yes I know I could buy cotton yarn, but why would I when I can grow naturally green and naturally brown cotton?

      • Happy Tuesday night Pamela🤗 I would like more information from you. What cotton seeds you use, the entire process. May you please contact me via my email? I plan on buying seeds but I would like more information from you if possible before I purchase them. My email is vcfairies454@gmail.com

      • The Boll Weevil is similar to measles and polio, but for agriculture. An infestation requires deploying large quantities of the harshest pesticides to subdue.
        Remember The Cotton Club? It started around 1922, when the Great Migration of African Americans into Northern cities, partly because of the devastation and loss of jobs caused by the Boll Weevil. This pest struck African-American farmers particularly hard as many could not afford the necessary pesticides, and many farmers lost everything.
        Please consider how terribly destructive the Boll Weevil has been and still remains, as it continually becomes resistant to eradication.
        Have empathy for farmers, many are still family owned farms. And have empathy for our environment, we don’t want to require massive pesticide applications to curtail this crippling pest.
        Cotton crops require extensive and near constant monitoring. Like pythons in Florida, please don’t grow cotton in your garden, nature can tumble out of control quickly. See your county agricultural extension agent first- and remember the vast tears shed because of the Boll Weevil.

    • Yeah.. Like weed lol.
      It’s a beautiful place to watch through out it growth cycle, and since they’re both illegal why not

    • Growing cotton for personal use is satisfying. It’s a survival skill. Also, for spinners, cotton can be green, white, or brown Natural!y colored cotton isn’t readily available.

  2. Big Ag doesnt want me spreading a boll weavel to them, but they can spread all the Roundup and harmful chemicals to me that they want; plus all the fertilizers leaching into our lakes and ponds. I see.

    • Absolutely! It seems as if they want to control what we can plant and grow in our own yards for our benefit and depend on them continuously making them rich. When it would be more beneficial for us to grow and harvest our own it most certainly benefit us financially. We would be self sufficient.

  3. I do find it humorous that I can legally grow marijuana in my backyard, but not cotton. But I do understand why cotton growing is illegal. I personally wouldn’t risk getting caught, and having to pay fines, and possibly paying to have boll weevils eradicated from my yard.

    • It’s a similar issue though. Big companies don’t want you to “ruin” their crop with your own, so you’d be dependent on their harvest.
      Similar with marijuana, but that is legal in some states. Your marijuana can pollinate with a commercial crop of hemp and make their crop “ruined” (hemp needs to be under a certain % of thc to be legal to be sold in many states).

    • You can grow Marijuana in your back yard? What state? It’s illegal for any purpose in my state. DUMB……but that’s the ‘law’.

  4. Not surprised about NC being at the top of the list…. It isn’t the only thing illegal to grow here due to big business.
    Currants and Gooseberries are illegal to grow because of the pine logging industry (even though some gooseberries have been bred to resist pine-rust).

  5. Ok, I really do understand your frustrations, but there are legal ways to go about having this law changed. It won’t happen though. I’m afraid those of you who are complaining (yes, I know it’s an art and of course you mean no harm) have no idea how hard this beetle is to eradicate. Sometimes laws exist for a very good reason, not just because they don’t want you to be independent. Think how your desire to be independent and practice your art can destroy a farmer’s livelihood and those of his neighbors and those across Alabama and every neighboring state throughout the U. S. Those farmers work hard enough as it is.

    Folks, I love this state. My ancestors came here some 300+ years ago, long
    before it was a state (and certainly long before Starbucks-like kudzu- had put down roots!) I hope you’re not just passing through, but plan to raise a family here. I hope you all come to love this state as much as I do. So whether you say Roll Tide! or War Eagle! (What?), say it loud like you mean it and remember that’s just one of the many things that make it our Sweet Home Alabama!


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Farm & Animals

6043 S Drexel Ave
Chicago, IL 60637

Amazon Disclaimer

Farm & Animals is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.


Farm & Animals do not intend to provide veterinary advice. We try to help farmers better understand their animals; however, the content on this blog is not a substitute for veterinary guidance. For more information, please read our PRIVACY POLICY.