OF ALL the crops grown in the United States cotton is the most significant, first because it supports a larger number of farm people than any other crop, and second because it links the United States more definitely with the outside world than any other crop. The producers of many American products are able to fool themselves for long years at a time concerning the real relationship of the United States to the outside world. Not so the cotton farmers. Every year they have it forcibly brought home to them that they are a part of a whole world, with respect both to foreign consumption and foreign competition.
During the five years previous to the World War, the total annual cotton crop of the world was some 20 million bales, of which the United States furnished about 13 million bales. At that time the world outside of the United States ordinarily consumed about 15 million bales a year, about half of which was produced by the United States, and about half by India, Egypt, Russia, China, etc. For forty-five years the trend of production in the United States has been upward, at the rate of about a hundred thousand bales a year; in the cotton growing countries outside the United States the rate of increase has been about a hundred and fifty thousand bales a year.
Again and again during the past century England has done her best to become as independent as possible of American cotton. The movement toward cotton independence for the British Empire has met with great obstacles in the shape of untrained native labor, poorly adapted soils and climates, and lack of transportation facilities. Nevertheless, the steady pressure of England has brought about a fairly constant expansion in cotton acreage in India, Uganda and the Sudan. Other countries, notably Russia, also made strenuous efforts during the twenties to become as independent as possible of American cotton. South America, too, especially Brazil and Argentina, are becoming more and more interested in
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