There is plenty of historical evidence of cotton production across the southern Kansas counties in the late 1800s and early years of the twentieth century. Cotton production reappeared on a very limited basis in the 1980s and a cotton gin in Sterling, Kansas, ginned a few bales in the later years of that decade. Production continued in Cowley County throughout the late 80s and early 90s with that production being ginned in Yukon, Oklahoma.
The 1995 Farm Bill with its “Freedom To Farm” provisions allowed cotton to be grown on all previously restricted “program acres.” With cotton now eligible for Farm Bill benefits, in the spring of 1996, a small group of producers in Cowley and Sumner counties in the east and Seward and Stevens Counties in the Southwest planted a limited number of acres to cotton. It was that year that the first modern gin was built in Winfield with ginnings that year of 4,450 bales. Thus was the beginning of Kansas cotton production and ginning in the current era. Since that time, gins have been constructed in Anthony, Moscow and Cullison with total ginnings exceeding one million bales.
The Kansas Cotton Association (KCA) was chartered in 2003 by a group of ginners and producers from across the state for the purpose of cotton promotion, education and initiating a program of legislative affairs both in-state and nationally. The KCA membership includes producers, ginners, crushers and warehousemen. The KCA is recognized by the National Cotton Council (NCC) and sends appointed delegates to their annual meeting each year. Ginners and producers serve on select committees within the NCC as well as on the board of directors. The KCA also is recognized by the USDA as a Certified Producer Organization eligible to make nominations to The Cotton Board and Cotton Incorporated.
Our history is less than 20 years and production numbers to-date do not make headlines across the “Cotton Belt.” As this history is updated, 2017 will be a new benchmark for cotton production and ginnings in Kansas as new genetics will unleash the profitable production of cotton across all of southern Kansas.