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Sharing in Sustainability

Beginning in April, the National Cotton Council will be encouraging this nation’s cotton producers to enroll in the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.

gary adams, ncc

Gary Adams

Why is full participation important?
More than 200 U.S. cotton producers enrolled in the NCC’s Trust Protocol pilot phase, but greater involvement is necessary to assure the global textile supply chain — including consumers — that U.S. cotton production is sustainable. Strong producer participation also will serve as a catalyst to drive the continuous improvements necessary to help our industry achieve by 2025 these six national sustainability goals: 13% increase in productivity (i.e. reduced land use per pound of fiber); 18% increase in irrigation efficiency; 39% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; 15% reduction in energy expenditures; 50% reduction in soil loss; and 30% increase in soil carbon. Demonstrating progress toward these goals is critical to getting manufacturers, major brands and retailers to source U.S. cotton and accept that we’re serious about responsibly producing our fiber and shrinking our environmental footprint.

Is Trust Protocol participation complicated?
No. In this voluntary program governed by the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol board, enrollees are asked to spend approximately 45 minutes to complete a self-assessment containing about 100 questions. The questionnaire covers: soil health, nutrient management, water management, crop protection, harvest preparation, wildlife habitat, fiber quality/traceability, farm management and worker relations. Enrollees’ answers will be confidential and subject to individual review to ensure the Trust Protocol requirements are being met. Participants will be able to monitor their sustainability progress, including comparing their data with that of their geographic region and/or the entire Cotton Belt.

Enrolled producers also must agree to use the FieldPrint Calculator or other qualified data products to monitor their farming practices on a percentage of their fields. The final step is completing a “statement of commitment” to: 1) responsible production practices aimed at safety/environmental awareness; and 2) continuous improvement. This formal documentation of best management practices such as precision farming, no-till, buffer strips and cover crops that U.S. cotton producers have been doing for the past 40 years, will add confidence and transparency throughout the textile supply chain.

Ted Schneider, a Louisiana producer and Trust Protocol board member, stated at the 2020 Beltwide Cotton Conferences, “There are three legs to sustainability: environmental sustainability; social sustainability, which is treating your workers, your community and your neighbors correctly; and economic sustainability. If you don’t have all three of those, you’re not sustainable.” He’s right. In fact, that’s the Trust Protocol’s aim – to promote our producers’ economic livelihood, environmental stewardship, caring of people and community, and personal and corporate integrity. The Trust Protocol, though, isn’t about one producer being more sustainable than another. It’s about ensuring that all U.S. cotton producers can compete in every market and not lose market access because of a perceived lack of sustainability.

I strongly urge all U.S. cotton producers not only to enroll now in the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol but to encourage their fellow producers to participate. More information and enrollment instructions are at www.trustUScotton.org. Questions can be directed to Trust Protocol Executive Director Ken Burton at kburton@cotton.org, 901-274-9030 or 334-318-0063.