⋅ BY CARROLL SMITH ⋅
BASF’s e3 Sustainable Cotton Program recently reported a substantial uptick in grower participation. More than 900 farmers, who grow FiberMax and Stoneville cotton, enrolled by registering cotton bales from their 2021 growing season — a 25% increase in enrollment from the previous year.
Besides being connected to these two cotton brands, another component that makes the program unique is its traceability aspect. The e3 cotton can be traced from an individual cotton bale in the field all the way to the garment or home good that ends up on the shelf.
“The e3 Sustainable Cotton Program is a good way to learn about what U.S. cotton farmers do to produce cotton in a sustainable way right there on their farms,” said Rachel Walters, BASF Regional Grower and Channel Marketing Manager – North America Seeds. “It adds value for growers, the environment and the end user, and our enrollment numbers prove the future is bright for the sustainable cotton industry.”
Chris King, who is a Stoneville grower and first-time e3 Sustainable Cotton Program member from Georgia, said, “I’m excited to join the e3 cotton program to further the efforts of sustainable cotton, and I’m always looking for ways to be a better steward of the land.”
A Helpful Data Source
When growers enroll fields in the e3 program, they commit to tracking eight on-farm metrics. The measures include:
→ Irrigation water use and quality.
→ Pesticide management.
→ Soil and fertility management.
→ Greenhouse gas reduction.
→ Energy conservation.
→ Worker health and safety.
→ Soil carbon.
→ Identity preservation.
Walters said BASF is not asking growers to do a lot of new things on their farms. “Many of these measures have been foundational in their operations,” she said. “Tracking them gives growers the confidence that they are doing things that are important to have a sustainable farm and to help people who don’t know anything about farming feel good about U.S. grown cotton and the products they are buying.
“One of the really neat things we added last year is a grower impact report that shows how well an operation did on the eight metrics,” Walters said. “This allows the farmers to compare, say, how they grew their cotton in 2020 and how they grew it in 2021. They can see the areas in which they improved and the areas that may need some adjustments.
“If they are renting ground, the grower can take the report to the landowner to show what they are doing on the farmland to make it better for the next year or the year following that one. It’s also a good data source for e3 cotton farmers to take to their bankers to affirm they are making smart decisions.”
Consumers And Sustainability
Earlier this year, the e3 cotton program announced a collaboration with the United Nations-hosted Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network for a series of convenings in New York City throughout 2022 and 2023.
BASF said, “e3 will join industry stakeholders, United Nations representatives and news media to explore how the fashion and lifestyle industries are uniquely positioned to collaborate and engage on the Sustainable Development Goals.”
The e3 cotton farmers also see the value in connecting and sharing their farms’ stories with retailers and consumers.
“Consumers care about sustainability, and the e3 Sustainable Cotton Program is helping to meet the demands of the industry,” said e3 grower Kim Rentz, who farms Stoneville cotton in Bainbridge, Georgia. “The program also provides solid economic benefits to the grower, and it’s making it easier for us to market our cotton.”
Walters noted that there are more sustainability programs on the scene today.
“I believe that, collectively, we are raising more awareness about these sustainability programs and the benefits to cotton growers,” she said. “Farmers are becoming more educated and more interested in sustainability as we make the programs more available and more top of mind, which is causing an increase in all the programs.”