By Mark Lange
The National Cotton Council and its export promotion arm, Cotton Council International, have joined with Cotton Australia and Cotton Incorporated as founding members of COTTON LEADS™ – a Cotton Foundation special project driven by cotton producers, scientists and professionals committed to responsibly-grown cotton.
Why was COTTON LEADS created?
The U.S. and Australian cotton industries jointly agreed to escalate their commitment to improved production and sustainability. These countries, which account for roughly 17 percent of global cotton production, already had demonstrated leadership in resource efficiency, including water/land use, pest management, soil conservation, energy/greenhouse gas reduction and bale traceability. COTTON LEADS was created to ensure continued production improvement and a reliable supply of responsibly-produced fiber for the global cotton industry.
This means textile manufacturers, brands and retailers will have access to this conscientiously-produced raw material. Adding to these cotton end users’ confidence is that COTTON LEADS will demonstrate how the United States, Australia and joining partner nations can supply this quality fiber. For example, U.S. and Australian cotton are identified on-farm by a module ticket. When the cotton is ginned, each bale is assigned a unique bale identification number. In Australia, the bale identification is linked to the module and cotton quality data. In the United States, the bale identification is linked to the gin, classing office and cotton quality data.
How will COTTON LEADS be conducted?
COTTON LEADS’ activities and program fund use will be guided by a committee comprised of three members from the founding member countries along with two members from partnering industry organizations. It will operate under five core principles consistent with sustainability, the use of best practices and traceability in the supply chain. Those are: 1) COMMITMENT – to the social, environmental, economic and regulatory factors to produce world-class cotton, 2) RECOGNITION – that sustainable and responsible cotton production requires continual improvement, investment, research and sharing of best practices information among growers and industry, 3) UNDERSTANDING – that leading change in a responsible and sustainable cotton practice will have the most positive impact when implemented in collaboration with farm, regional, national and international programs, 4) BELIEF – in the benefit of working cooperatively with similar programs that seek to advance responsible and sustainable cotton production in an effort to keep global cotton competitive in world fiber markets, and 5) CONFIDENCE – in a cotton identification system that ensures traceability from farm to manufacturer.
Validating the COTTON LEADS program are: 1) national-level oversight, 2) regulatory enforcement and 3) transparency of practices common to the United States and Australia. Companies and organizations can get involved in the program by supporting research at the field level, disseminating best practices and creating partnerships for continuous global production improvement. For example, current research ranges from precision fertilizer management to sensor demonstrations for irrigation scheduling. The NCC will strive for COTTON LEADS expansion. There’s plenty of upside potential considering there are more than 20 million cotton producers in 77 countries. In the meantime, I encourage NCC members to learn more about this important program by visiting www.cottonleads.org.
Mark Lange is the president and chief executive officer for the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming page.