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- Cotton's Agenda -

No Seat At The Table

 

By Mark Lange
NCC President/CEO

 
Cotton – the largest natural fiber in the global fiber, textile and apparel economy – was not given
representation on a panel created to develop sustainable practices guidelines for U.S. agriculture.


What is the situation?

The Leonardo Academy is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to develop the Sustainable Agriculture Practice Standard for Food, Fiber and Biofuel Crop Producers and Agricultural Product Handlers and Processors. The standards committee selected by Leonardo for this purpose consists of 58 members in four categories: producer, user, environmental and general interest. Only three producer members on the committee are from major commodities (corn, soybean) or production agriculture interests (American Farm Bureau Federation), and there is only one fiber processor (Levi Strauss). However, there are seven floral/horticulture related members on the committee, which also appears to be heavily populated with organic interests. Noticeably absent, though, is cotton representation. Rejected were applications by
Dr. Bill Norman, NCC’s vice president, Technical Services; Drs. Andrew Jordan and Phil Wake-lyn, industry consultants, and Norma Keyes, director, Product Standards, Cotton Incorporated.

The NCC believed that cotton might be overlooked when it earlier signed onto a letter with 32 other organizations expressing concerns with the proposed sustainable agriculture standard draft process. That letter specifically addressed concerns with organic agriculture practices being equated with best agricultural practices in the draft standard and the fact that “materially affected stakeholders” were not properly notified of the standard’s initial development as required by ANSI standards procedures. Among the numerous concerns noted was that while the standard’s stated purpose is to define sustainable agriculture, the draft standard as written pertains to “sustainable organic agriculture” only and does not meet the definition of “sustainable agriculture” as defined in the 1990 farm law.

What is the NCC’s latest response?

Thanks to a required appeals process, the NCC sent a letter appealing the committee selection process and requesting reconsideration of Dr. Norman’s application. That letter asserts that the committee, as selected, lacks a balance of stakeholders to be affected by the standard – as required by the Leonardo and ANSI rules. The letter noted that, in addition to cotton, there was no representation from commodities such as wheat, grain sorghum, canola, rice, peanuts and other major row crops, or a member representing biofuel production (outside of corn). It states that “…by a ratio of 3:1, the selected members will be predisposed towards an organic approach to sustainability…” and that the committee contains membership representing interests in the floral and horticultural industry that are not addressed by the standard and thus, should not be considered for committee membership. The Standards Committee’s first meeting was set for September 25-26 in Madison, Wisc., and Leonardo was considering the NCC’s appeal as this column was being submitted.

Meanwhile, the NCC is engaged with Cotton Incorporated and other commodity, consumer and environmental organizations in defining agricultural sustainability and setting achievable goals to evaluate progress. The NCC also participated in the development of “The First Forty Days,” which outlines expert recommendations of best management practices in cotton production.

Mark Lange is president and chief executive officer for the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this page.


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