Regulation & Compliance – United States

A robust and comprehensive system

Cotton production systems must meet a variety of stringent regulations and standards that protect workers, consumers and the environment. Cotton is considered a food crop and so is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the same way as other food crops under the provisions of the U.S. Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA). For organically produced U.S. cotton, the USDA enforces National Organic Program (NOP) standards.

Take a closer look through our interactive infographic,
Producing U.S. Cotton Responsibly. Regulation, Oversight and Compliance.

View Infographic
Cotton Regulation and Compliance - US and AUS Graph
Labor Regulations

  • Migrant and Season Worker Protection Act (MSWPA) – MSWPA covers minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping, child labor standards, agriculture, migrant housing, migrant transportation, notices to workers and visas as each of these issues apply to all migrant and seasonal workers in the U.S.
  • Worker Protection Standards (WPS) – WPS requires that all workers receive basic pesticide safety training by their sixth day of working in pesticide-treated areas, that decontamination water be available, that minimum restricted entry intervals and personal protective equipment requirements be observed (based on the product’s immediate toxicity), and that medical assistance be provided in case of emergency.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.
Consumer Safety

  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates the sale and manufacture of many consumer products. CPSC fulfills its mission by banning dangerous consumer products, issuing recalls of products already on the market, and researching potential hazards associated with consumer products.
Food Safety

  • Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) protects the food supply under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA). FSIS is the public health regulatory agency that ensures the safety and security of the U.S. meat, poultry, and processed egg products supply.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has legislative mandate to require comprehensive, prevention-based controls across the food supply. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by requiring food facilities to evaluate the hazards in their operations, implement and monitor effective measures to prevent contamination, and have a plan in place to take any needed corrective actions.
Cotton Regulation and Compliance - Cotton-Bales-Stacked-Image
Workplace Safety

  • Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) – Congress passed this act to ensure worker and workplace safety. Their goal was to make sure employers provide their workers a place of employment free from recognized hazards to safety and health, such as exposure to toxic chemicals, excessive noise levels, mechanical dangers, heat or cold stress, or unsanitary conditions. Agricultural workers are covered by many of the regulations generated by federal OSHA and/or by state agencies that are approved for self-regulation under OSHA.
Child Protection

  • Child Protective Services (CPS) is the governmental agency in many states of the United States that responds to reports of child abuse or neglect.
  • The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act provides federal funding to States in support of prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution, and treatment activities and also provides grants to public agencies and nonprofit organizations for demonstration programs and projects.
Pesticide Regulations

  • Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) – The primary focus of this act is to provide federal control of pesticide distribution, sale and use. Under FIFRA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency studies the consequences of pesticide usage and reviews pesticide registrations every 15 years. It also requires pesticide users to complete competency training in order to obtain a license as a pesticide applicator.
  • Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) – FQPA amended FIFRA in 1996. Major changes include stricter safety standards, especially for infants and children, and a complete reassessment of all existing pesticide tolerances.
  • Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) – TSCA was enacted by Congress to give the EPA the ability to track, screen, test and ban industrial chemicals currently produced or imported into the United States. The EPA also has mechanisms in place to track and control new chemicals.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) – This act ensures that employers provide their workers a place of employment free from recognized hazards to safety and health, such as exposure to toxic chemicals, excessive noise levels, mechanical dangers, heat or cold stress, or unsanitary conditions.
  • Clean Air Act (CAA) – This comprehensive federal law regulates air emissions from area, stationary and mobile sources.
  • Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) – SDWA was established to protect the quality of drinking water in the U.S. This law focuses on all waters actually or potentially designed for drinking use, whether from above ground or underground sources.
  • Endangered Species Act (ESA) – The ESA provides a program for the conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals and the habitats in which they are found. Under the FIFRA, the EPA can issue emergency suspensions of certain pesticides to cancel or restrict their use if an endangered species will be adversely affected.
  • Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) – The set of laws authorizes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to oversee the safety of food, drugs and cosmetics. Cotton is regulated as a food crop since cotton byproducts such as cottonseed oil and meal are used in human and animal foodstuffs.
Cotton Regulation and Compliance - Cotton-Bales-Image
Water Stewardship

  • Clean Water Act: Regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through section 319 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes a Non-Point Source Management Program that includes oversight of agricultural operations.
  • The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008: Operates several programs that assist farmers to continue adopting new technologies to improve water management and protect water quality.
  • Western states (including the cotton states of California, Arizona and New Mexico): There is a long history of carefully allocating and monitoring water resources in the West. A summary of the efforts to sustain water resources in the western U.S. is compiled here.
  • Texas: Surface water withdrawals must be permitted by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission.
  • Mississippi: Water quality and water withdrawals are regulated by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.
  • Tennessee: Under the authority of the Water Resources Information Act of 2002, TCA, Section 69-8-103, water withdrawals of 10,000 gallons or more on any day in Tennessee must be registered.
  • Georgia: The Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission oversee efforts to ensure sustainable use of agricultural water resources in the state. Water withdrawals require state permits and all agricultural withdrawals are metered.
Conservation Programs

  • Natural Resources Conservation Service – Conservation Reserve Program (NRCS-CRP) – This program provides technical and financial assistance to eligible farmers and ranchers to address soil, water and related natural resource concerns on their lands in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner. It reduces soil erosion, reduces sedimentation in streams and lakes, improves water quality, establishes wildlife habitat and enhances forest and wetland resources. It encourages farmers to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage to vegetative cover, such as tame or native grasses, wildlife plantings, trees, filter strips or riparian buffers.
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service – Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (NRCS-WHIP) – This voluntary program provides private landowners with technical assistance and up to 75% cost-share assistance to establish and improve fish and wildlife habitat.
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service – Wetland Reserve Program (NRCS-WRC) – This voluntary program offers landowners the opportunity to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their property by providing technical and financial support.
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service – Environmental Quality Incentives Program (NRCS-EQIP) – This voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals. EQIP offers financial and technical assistance to help participants install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land.

Accountability Down the Chain

Explore the research and resources we’ve pulled this information from.