The American cotton industry is placing a lot of hope on the new cotton sustainability verification program, U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.
It’s a program that has some pretty deep roots and has taken years to refine. I know, having been in the business for over 20 years and preached its message, that it’s a hot ticket item and has caused cotton producers and others in the industry a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
In the 1980s, cotton won the heart of consumers with its Fabric of Our Lives promotion, but soon thereafter environmental activists began to question how well U.S. cotton took care of our environment as well as questioning the industry’s sustainability efforts.
Cotton producers knew they had to take care of their land or that it would cease to produce. Most were excellent stewards of their land with a track record of advancing science and sustaining their land. But, those outside of the industry, not involved in the process, with louder voices began to take over the conversation using erroneous language and scare tactics.
It was a war of words and economics that continues to rage.
As I see it, cotton and agriculture in general has a problem telling its own story. We’re getting better at it, but we are still not as loud as those who advocate to shut down our larger operations. We provide the world with food and clothing, but the world doesn’t see how we provide for it.
Early iterations of proving how well we took care of what we had were well meaning but the message wasn’t getting out or it wasn’t what the brands and retailers wanted to see. They wanted verification and traceability — something not all farmers want to do.
And, I get it, who wants someone breathing down your neck to make sure you’re doing something that you’ve done for years. Still, it’s what those who are selling our final product want and are now demanding.
The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol seeks to give brands and retailers a quantifiable and verifiable window to view the process and improvements of the cotton industry.
That is done with the help of Field to Market, which uses verifiable data to show how well U.S. cotton sustainability is advancing. Current numbers include an overall 30 percent increase in soil carbon, 13 percent increase in land use efficiency, 39 percent in greenhouse gas efficiency, 50 percent decrease in soil loss per acre, 18 percent decrease in water use and a 15 percent decrease in energy use.
I know that the Cotton Research and Promotion Program, the National Cotton Council, USDA, state universities and private industry are working overtime to ensure that these improvements continue to move forward.
But, it all takes grower participation. Check out the new U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol website at trustuscotton.org/
And, tell your story.