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‘California Cotton Is Not Going Away’

By Jodi Raley

California cotton producers, ginners, pest control advisers and cotton industry organizations gathered in the halls of the Visalia Convention Center for the California Cotton Growers Association’s 26th Annual Meeting. With 2015 California cotton acreage hitting a historical low, the industry is welcoming an estimated increase of up to 20 percent.

Cotton Incorporated and Brooks Brothers, also in attendance, discussed the need for California cotton and showcased the technology being developed to drive the use of cotton in the marketplace.

Cotton Production Sessions
This year’s annual meeting incorporated three informative “breakout sessions.” Pete Goodell of the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management Program moderated the discussion on pest management: challenges and solutions.

Goodell discussed UC’s IPM Decision Support Tool, an app that can be used to support insecticide decision-making for key pests. The tool, compatible with most smartphones and tablets, compiles an easy-to-read report with sampling and assessment guidelines, non-chemical approaches and alternative insecticides. Goodell also discussed the insecticide, chlorpyrifos, for which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to revoke U.S. tolerances.

A panel that featured Larry Godfrey, UC Davis; Vonny Barlow, UCCE Riverside; and Nick Groenenberg and Jim Razor, JG Boswell, discussed the 2015 state industry issues, including heavy lygus infestations and brown stink bug in Southern California.

UCCE state cotton specialist Bob Hutmacher moderated and presented the session on advances in variety and performance, including his 2015 variety studies. Several seed companies briefed participants on varieties for the 2016 planting season.

Dan Munk of UCCE moderated the water issues and updates breakout sessions. Woody Miller of Valley Pump spoke on groundwater well rehabilitation, and Lauren Noland-Hajik from the law firm, Kahn, Soares & Conway, briefed attendees on the state’s Groundwater Sustainability Act.

Cotton Promotion Efforts
David Early of Cotton Incorporated gave an update on how his group is promoting the use of cotton both domestically and internationally. Through technology such as Wicking Windows and TransDRY, cotton’s performance against synthetics is unmatched, he says.

Cotton Incorporated worked with retail brands to increase awareness of cotton products. Early cited as an example the partnership with North Face, which recently launched its second installment of The Backyard Project. This initiative increases consumer awareness on where their clothing is grown and sewn.

California Cotton Growers Association member Ted Sheely of Lemoore, Calif., produced some of the cotton used in the project. The cotton was grown and ginned in California and Arizona, spun into yarn in South Carolina, and cut, dyed and sewn in Los Angeles. Mike Carter, west region vice president of Brooks Brothers, says his company makes a conscious effort to choose Supima cotton.

Regulatory Updates
CCGGA staff, including President Roger Isom, Director of Technical Services Chris McGlothlin and Director of Regulatory Affairs Jodi Raley provided regulatory updates on anticipated hot topics. Among these were pesticides, educating urban legislators on agriculture, water quality, and the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.

“California cotton is not going away” despite the years of acreage declining and the increased regulatory burden, Isom says. He notes that national cotton industry leadership is led by individuals from California that include Mark Watte, California cotton producer and current Cotton Incorporated chair, and Aaron Barcellos, California cotton producer and current Cotton Board chair. In addition, California cotton producer and ginner Kirk Gilkey currently chairs the Cotton Foundation.

Reece Langley, vice president of Washington, D.C., operations for the National Cotton Council presented an update on current issues and the cotton market. The Food Safety Modernization Act, EPA’s pesticide activities and China’s cotton market remain some of the challenges across the Cotton Belt. Langley notes that China currently has nearly 60 million bales of cotton in reserve, which keeps world cotton prices continually low.

Jodi Raley is the CCGGA director of regulatory affairs.