Budget Cutbacks Didn’t Stop Important Cotton Research

Every cotton farmer knows about and deals with personal budgets and how surpluses and deficits affect their operation. We are all also painfully aware of the huge U.S. budget deficit and how that is affecting the national discussion of the future Farm Bill, as well as so much more that we in the cotton industry are involved in as American citizens. Every cotton farmer is also aware that the real customer for high quality American cotton is not the cotton merchant but the textile mill and ultimately the private consumer.

Most cotton producers are also aware of the big investment that USDA has made in all areas of cotton-related research that greatly contributes to American cotton maintaining its high quality and world market demand. What some in the cotton industry may not be aware of are real cuts in cotton research scientists and infrastructure that the USDA has recently made because of decreased budgets. The USDA-Agriculture Research Service (ARS), Cotton Quality Research Station (CQRS) in Clemson, S.C., was officially closed in October of 2011. All of the staff at the CQRS either left ARS or were transferred to other locations to fill existing vacancies because there was no longer any money to fund this particular program.

The CQRS was the only ARS laboratory doing large scale cotton textile processing research, which was very important to my laboratory’s research program as well as to the research programs of the other two ginning laboratories. The ARS cotton ginning laboratories always evaluate HVI and related ginned raw fiber properties for all processing and ginning research they do.

The money and location are now gone for this type of textile research in the future at CQRS, but that is not the end of the story. The USDA-ARS’s overall goal is to solve problems for American agriculture.

I think it is important for cotton producers and ginners to know that, even though ARS’s cotton textile research budget was significantly reduced, a lot of dedicated ARS people all the way from headquarters staff, the Mid-South and South Atlantic areas and some especially committed people from the Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans have continued research on cotton.

In the end, it isn’t just about the money. It is about dedicated people who are committed to solving problems for U.S. cotton.

Ed Hughs is Director of the Southwest Ginning Research Laboratory in Mesilla Park, N.M. Contact him at (575) 526-6381 or ed.hughs@ars.usda.gov.

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