2020 Is ‘One For The Books’
As I sit down to write this article and reflect on the year, I struggle to come up with the words to summarize 2020. The phrases I typically use to describe it may not be appropriate here. But I think it should suffice to say 2020 has been tough.
Between a trade war and labor issues in China, the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on cotton demand, and unprecedented weather across the Belt, 2020 has tested every sector of the cotton industry.
Cotton producers know about tough years. Even when prices are low and input costs are high, everyone still depends on farmers to feed and clothe the world.
Industry Comes Together
However, I think most cotton producers must also be optimists by nature. How else could they continue to put their livelihood on the line year after year?
So I’ve found myself searching for the bright spots in this unimaginable year, and I keep coming back to the people and organizations that form the backbone of the U.S. cotton industry. We are a tough lot, and historically our industry doesn’t withdraw during difficult times.
In fact, the Cotton Research and Promotion Program was designed to help overcome adversity by a group of cotton producers who faced declining market share, low prices and new competition from man-made synthetic fibers. But instead of backing down, they rallied together to ensure a future for cotton.
Cotton Incorporated’s Efforts
2020 marked the 50th anniversary of Cotton Incorporated — the research and marketing company founded by U.S. cotton producers and importers. The cotton industry has changed significantly over the past five decades, including the way the crop is produced and harvested to the fiber’s ability to perform in a range of apparel and home textiles.
For 50 years, Cotton Incorporated has existed to lighten cotton producers’ burden. Through ongoing research, cottonseed marketing and consumer promotion, Cotton Incorporated helps producers grow the crop more profitably and creates a market demand for the fiber.
During its 50th year, Cotton Incorporated has been a leader in rebuilding and retooling the downstream supply chain for cotton products. This revitalization is critical to regain consumer demand and strengthen producer prices.
Cotton Incorporated has quickly adjusted and adapted plans in 2020 to address the immediate needs of the cotton growers and importers it serves.
Addressing The Pandemic
To better understand the pandemic’s effects on consumer habits and attitudes, the Corporate Strategy and Insights department conducted multiple surveys on the impact of COVID-19 on consumers’ shopping habits. The Global Supply Chain Marketing team is leveraging that information and sharing it with companies, organizations and associations in the world supply chain to help build cotton demand.
The Nonwovens Department worked with the retail-brand community to find sourcing solutions to the serious personal protective equipment shortage that emerged early this year.
The Consumer Marketing team quickly launched a new advertising campaign, sharing a simple message: stay home, stay safe and stay comfortable in cotton.
The videos illustrate how the pandemic has changed the way we live our lives. They also recognize the farmers, essential workers and health care professionals working on the front lines.
The Ag Research team traveled the country, often living in travel trailers to stay safe from COVID-19. They visited research plots, checked in with cooperator researchers and visited farmers in every cotton-growing state.
Embracing What’s Essential
2020 will be a year we all remember for quite some time. We were forced to slow down, look around and identify things that were truly essential in our lives.
The tireless, often underappreciated, hard work of America’s cotton producers is essential. Having access to the fruits of their labor and the ability to stay comfortable in cotton have also felt essential to me.
I hope all the cotton producers out there have confidence that the work being done by the Cotton Research and Promotion Program on their behalf can be included in the “essential” category, too.
Gorman is The Cotton Board’s director of communications. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.