Cotton growers are riding an unbelievable hot streak. Prices are high and climbing, demand for cotton products worldwide is growing and production in the U.S. may come close to 13 million acres in 2011.

With all that good news in their pockets, North Carolina growers attending their recent annual meeting in New Bern, N.C., couldn’t help but smile at the news that the U.S. textile industry is making a slow, but sure climb out of a two-decade long doldrums that meant most of the cotton grown in the U.S. had to be sold abroad, primarily to China.

Dependence on foreign buyers isn’t going to change for U.S. cotton growers, but the successes of their domestic textile market could only be good.

Cass Morgan, executive director of the California-based U.S. Textile Industry, says the high prices cotton growers are receiving for their crop is actually good for the U.S. industry. It’s leveling the playing field and allowing some U.S. textile companies to compete with foreign countries, especially Asian countries.

Speaking at the recent annual meeting of the North Carolina Cotton Growers Association in New Bern, Morgan says for the first time in over 20 years domestic use of cotton increased in 2010. Though the increase was small, from 3.2 to 3.6 million bales, there are plenty of reasons for optimism.

Textile profits were up in 2010 by 4.2 percent — the first time in more than five years. Of the 14 top textile producers, five companies kept a stable workforce for the past three years and nine companies added employees.

In 2010, cotton yarn production was up seven percent and knit fabric production was up by five percent.

Losing the textile industry devastated rural economies in the Southeastern U.S. over the past 25 years. The news that three new cotton mills became operational last year should be good news to rural towns across the South.

Three new cotton mills opened for business in the U.S. in 2010. One in Louisiana was built and one in Texas and one in South Carolina were rebuilds of existing plants.

There is still a distinct foreign involvement in the new growth of the U.S. textile industry. The Zagis plant built in Louisiana and opened last year is owned primarily by a Mexican Company. The  Santana Denim plant in Edinboro, Texas is owned by a Brazilian Company. Only the Parkdale plant in Gaffney, S.C. is primarily U.S. owned.

While the growth of U.S. cotton mills is slow, it’s not exactly small. Parkdale Mills, Inc. invested $45 million for new equipment and upgrades for  the Gaffney, S.C., mill, formerly known as Wellstone Mills. The refurbished mill in Gaffney, S.C., supplied jobs for 145 textile workers who had been laid off from other closed textile plants in the area.