The National Cotton Council’s voice is steadily persistent on matters that could affect cotton producers’ ability to compete in the global marketplace.
What were some key activities this past year?
Cotton flow and marketing activities received a major NCC focus in 2022, including continued testing and comparisons of cotton and polypropylene bale packaging. That included testing of new woven polypropylene bags containing blue color for better detection of this plastic contaminant at gins and mills. Bagging manufacturers are performing additional lamination testing and increasing the quality control checks to make sure these bags fully meet Joint Cotton Industry Bale Packaging Specifications. Another flow activity with potential to enhance our export growth is the NCC Joint Cotton Fungibility Working Group’s efforts at grouping bales with identical qualities that can be interchangeable in the warehouse while retaining individual bale identity/data. This panel also is investigating techniques to increase warehouse bale selection efficiency for mills to realize higher quality/consistent lint laydowns.
In addition, the NCC’s diligence in working with the Administration and Congress on improvements in the ocean, rail and trucking transportation systems helped avert a rail strike that could have severely compromised the nation’s supply chain and U.S. cotton flow.
The NCC engaged with EPA on multiple rules affecting producers’ viability. Among those were the NCC’s plan to comment on EPA’s final rule to regulate “waters of the United States” that was to be published at the time this column was submitted in mid-December. The NCC had emphasized that losing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule was a step back and that changing rules every few years would do more environmental harm than good in the long run. Among other regulatory activities was NCC’s submission of comments on EPA proposals affecting plant protection products ranging from organophosates and sulfoxaflor to diruon and dicamba. In comments on the agency’s dicamba risk assessment, for example, the NCC emphasized the product’s importance in managing glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth.
NCC and other industry input led USDA to include the Climate Smart Cotton Program in the agency’s Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities pilot projects. Led by the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol®, this 5-year pilot will provide technical/financial assistance to more than 1,000 U.S. cotton producers to advance adoption of climate smart practices such as no-till, cover crops and nutrient management on more than a million acres. We also are pleased that 1) more than 600 producers with an estimated 1.1 million acres now have enrolled in the Trust Protocol and 2) participation in the industry’s sustainability initiative is gaining momentum.
How is the NCC involved with farm bill development?
We were represented at House and Senate agriculture committees’ hearings in Arkansas, Arizona, California, and Washington DC, during 2022. A newly created NCC Farm Policy Task Force is meeting to develop the industry’s farm bill recommendations. We hope to finalize farm bill priorities in early 2023 and will be communicating with Congressional budget panels in seeking additional resources for an effective farm law.
One priority is NCC’s strong support of a bill introduced in the Senate that would double funding for USDA’s Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program. Utilized by Cotton Council International, these two farm law programs are critical to expanding U.S. cotton’s global market access.