Cotton Links


Capturing A Vision


By Mark Lange
NCC President/CEO

The National Cotton Council, Cotton Council International and Cotton Incorporated are collaborating on a comprehensive effort to: 1) assess cotton textiles’ fastest growing consumer markets, 2) conduct life-cycle studies to strengthen U.S. cotton’s sustainability message and 3) thoroughly analyze cotton handling/transportation logistics with a focus on improving flow/shipping.

How will this project be carried out?

“Vision of U.S. Cotton’s 21st Century” is supported by The Cotton Foundation via an initial Monsanto grant. First will be an assessment of the 20-year impact of the fastest growing cotton textiles/apparel consumer market (Asia). The primary focus will be on India and China’s major metropolitan areas. This assessment’s finding will be crucial to the formation of appropriate policy in bilateral and multilateral trade agreements. A subcomponent will be to examine the forces affecting the world’s textile and apparel complex in the year 2025. Sessions already have brought together stakeholders in four separate global markets: the Western Hemisphere, Greater Europe, South Asia and China/Hong Kong.

Next, life-cycle studies will focus on “sustainability” and environmental aspects of U.S. cotton production, storage and transport along with textile processing, apparel manufacturing and consumer handling. There is an urgent need for a commercially viable definition of “sustainability” – one that is workable for U.S. production agriculture by incorporating many of the technologies and agronomic practices currently employed. Solid science combined with effective communication will be needed to place U.S. production agriculture in a credible and operationally effective position.

The third study area acknowledges that the location of U.S. cotton production has shifted dramatically while end points for delivery of baled lint also have changed. Today, Texas and Oklahoma account for 50 percent of production, up from 25 percent a few years ago. For 40 years, U.S. mills consumed more than 70 percent of domestic production and steady weekly shipments to mills dominated warehouse activity. Today, most shipments from warehouses are for export markets and are bunched into a few months of the year. The disposition/scheduling of trucking and containers to match shipping line schedules for export shipment now plays a critical role in timely shipment. To compete in the international market at the scale necessary for current levels of production, U.S. cotton must be able to move swiftly and in sizeable quantities to port facilities and waiting vessels. Cotton logistics with changing production and shipping focus points and significant increases in labor and energy costs must be addressed. In addition, optimal organization of U.S. raw cotton storage will be determined.

What happens after the study is completed?

The most important step will be widely communicating the findings and analysis to the U.S. cotton industry and affiliated interests with a goal of obtaining a commonly held future vision. Industry’s access to these findings should present an excellent opportunity for building consensus that could result in near term tactics involving necessary legislation, programs or regulatory changes.

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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