Sunday, June 23, 2024

From Field To Fashion

e3 Sustainable Cotton Program Provides Traceable, Transparent Supply Chain For U.S. Cotton 

• By Carroll Smith,
Editor •

For the past few years, consumers have expressed a desire to know more about the fiber from which their clothing and woven home goods are made. Where does this cotton come from?

To answer their question, BASF decided the best place to start is at the beginning with its Stoneville and FiberMax cottonseed. Farmers who grow these varieties are eligible to enroll in the e3 Sustainable Cotton Program where they commit to growing sustainable cotton and sharing their story via this transparent platform. The goal is to create a traceable supply chain from the seed to the finished garment or home furnishing.

This is how it works:

The grower receives a seed invoice from the seed retailer.

The grower digitally enrolls his e3 sustainable cotton field and operation for Stonevillle and/or FiberMax cotton.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture permanent bale identification is created at the gin.

The PBI is entered into an e3 sustainable cotton bale database.

The merchant sells cotton to a mill.

The merchant sends BASF a list of bales to be validated.

A proof of purchase is sent to BASF.

BASF sends the brand a certificate of authenticity.

Once licensed, the retailer can brand e3 sustainable cotton as Certified FiberMax and/or Authentic Stoneville garments or home furnishings.

Economic Incentives

Vidalia Mills in Vidalia, Louisiana, produces high-quality denim. “This mill only uses e3 sustainable cotton,” says Jennifer Crumpler, BASF e3 Sustainable Cotton Program manager.

Jennifer Crumpler, BASF e3 Sustainable Cotton Program manager, says, “We pay our growers a $2.50 per-bale premium for the bales they enroll in our program to help them invest back in sustainability efforts and initiatives on their farms.

“We also are working with brands who want to participate in a ‘farm to fashion’ kind of movement. We want to proactively tell the farmer’s story and help consumers who may not realize their clothes don’t just come from the store.”

In February 2021, BASF launched the e3 Sustainable Cotton Grower Fund to provide additional support for e3 cotton farmers. According to the company, “Brands, retailers, mills and other cotton fiber value chain partners sourcing e3 Sustainable Cotton will have the opportunity to contribute a monetary amount to the fund. At the end of each year, 100% of those funds will be distributed equally to e3 sustainable cotton farmers, which is in addition to BASF’s $2.50 per bale premium.”

Farmer Perspectives

Brian Rhodes, an e3 sustainable cotton grower in Pinal County, Arizona, says he enrolled in the program because he was already implementing a lot of the sustainability practices. “To get official recognition and additional compensation” made a lot of sense.

“We get a per-bale payment for each bale we have enrolled,” Rhodes says. “With the technology we have on our farm, we can trace the cotton back to the exact rows it was grown on. Everything we apply — fertilizer, herbicides, insecticides — goes into our John Deere Operations Center database so we can show how we are using these inputs in a sustainable fashion.”

The sustainability measures the program tracks and documents to an individual farmer include water efficiency, pesticide management, soil and fertility management, greenhouse gas reduction, energy conservation, worker health and safety, soil carbon and identity preservation.

Adam McLendon is an e3 sustainable cotton farmer in McLendon Acres, Georgia.

“What a lot of non-farmers don’t picture when talking about sustainability is financial sustainability,” McLendon says. “This is needed for us to care for our land and resources to keep the farm going for generations to provide a high-quality crop for consumers. We are constantly learning new ways to be sustainable. We want to preserve our resources so we can continue to grow our crop every year for a multi-generational career.”

John Branton is a Louisiana producer who grows e3 sustainable cotton at Frogmore Farms. Geographically, this operation is close to Vidalia Mills in Vidalia, Louisiana. The new textile mill, which was established in 2014, makes high-quality denim and only uses e3 sustainable cotton.

“Consumers should buy American-made products,” Branton says. “If ‘traceability’ is what the market wants, we want to provide that. With the help of the e3 Sustainable Cotton Program, we also are doing our best to reduce our carbon footprint.”

For more information about the BASF e3 Sustainable Cotton Program, contact your local seed advisor or email

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