Cotton Incorporated’s recently-elected chairman, Mississippi farmer Bernie Jordan, was named 2019 Cotton Farmer of the Year at the twenty-second annual National Conservation Systems Cotton & Rice Conference this week in Baton Rouge, La.
In a keynote address at the conference’s opening general session, Jordan updated the crowd on Cotton Incorporated’s latest research and promotion efforts to strengthen cotton’s position with consumers.
“The indices our company tracks to gauge cotton’s position across the world fiber market are showing great promise,” said Jordan. “There is no denying cotton has been challenged by man-made fibers, but cotton’s future is looking much brighter based on cotton’s latest per-capita consumption figures, market share, and imports. Even the trend to lighter weight fabrics seems to be stabilizing after a 16 percent decline over the last ten years.”
Jordan emphasized the importance of maintaining a positive brand image to both retailers and consumers. “We accomplish this through advertising campaigns, promotional efforts, and social media networks — and through meetings our staff holds with those retailers and brands across cotton’s global supply chain.”
He reminded everyone about the importance of supplying cotton in both volume and quality to world buyers. “As a promotion and research organization, we encourage U.S. producers to increase their diligence to provide a product that is free of contamination to cotton’s customers. This has been a major concern of late. Relaying to the world the sustainability of U.S. cotton is critical.”
The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol will begin in 2019 to encourage all growers to document their production practices and their farm’s environmental footprint. “This is an integrated data collection, measurement and verification procedure that can provide further evidence of the U.S. cotton industry’s responsible cotton production practices,” says Jordan.
Providing proof of these sustainable production practices will help ensure U.S. cotton is on the “preferred materials lists” of brand and retailers who consume large volumes of cotton each year through textile mills and manufacturers.
He also alluded to the vast amount of negative press given to polyester and rayon fibers over the last year. One study conducted by the University of California at Santa Barbara showed synthetic fleece jackets release 1.7 grams of microfibers each time they are washed. “We must capitalize on this negative perception and use it to cotton’s benefit,” said Jordan.
Cotton Farmer of the Year
Jordan received the award for Cotton Farmer of the Year during the annual rewards luncheon. He is both a grower and ginner who returned to the family farm in 1979 after studying economics at Mississippi State University.
Jordan has opened his farm to agricultural research conducted by Mississippi State University agricultural engineer Lyle Pringle, who conducted a three-year irrigation study on Jordan Farms. “Bernie was very interested in reviewing data from my work and using it to assist his irrigation scheduling,” says Pringle. “Since then, he has begun using soil moisture sensors and ‘computerized hole selection’ to improve the efficiency of his furrow irrigation efforts during the growing season.”
Maintaining an understanding of cotton’s extensive supply chain and the importance of keeping cotton in the hands of today’s fashion designers, Jordan donated a portion of his operation’s cotton to the Fashion Design and Merchandising program coordinated by Dr. Charles Freeman, Jr., associate professor, Mississippi State University.
“We deeply appreciate Bernie’s dedication and willingness to support our program. He has witnessed how this program works to keep our graduates - who love working with cotton - employed in fashion centers located in places like New York and Los Angeles,” says Freeman. “He was the first cotton producer to become involved with our center for retail and cotton product development. His efforts were instrumental in helping the program gain critical momentum.”