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Cotton LEADS program helping cotton regain market share

The U.S. and Australian cotton industries’ new Cotton LEADS program is working to recapture market share for cotton against synthetic fibers. Cotton producers may soon be called to help in that effort with their time and their knowledge.

“The first step in this process was to develop metrics to help support the case that U.S. cotton is doing great things in the area of sustainability,” said Cotton Incorporated CEO Berrye Worsham, who spoke at the National Conservation Systems Cotton and Rice Conference in Tunica, Miss.

“Everything from improving land use efficiency to water use efficiency, improving pesticide applications, soil erosion improvement as well as reduced energy use. And we have combined that with increased efforts in our research capabilities, efforts in agricultural research as well as textile product care. But we knew that wasn’t enough.”

Globally, he said, U.S. cotton interests are still encountering resistance “partly because we’re the big guys and big players in the market.”

Thinking they needed a partner globally, the U.S. cotton industry led by the National Cotton Council and Cotton Incorporated and Cotton Council International, met with the Australian cotton industry. “We had seen their metrics and they were very similar to the U.S., with improvements in water use and pesticide applications,” said Worsham.

“We felt that by combining our efforts we would be better off than going it alone. We gave the Australians a proposal to jointly promote our cotton in this arena, and we called it Cotton LEADS. The ultimate goal was to have brands and retailers around the world accept U.S. and Australian cotton as part of their sourcing strategies without – and this is important – costly certification.”

In the last two months, the program has signed up 15 partners, including most recently, Brooks Brothers.

“This represents quite a bit of cotton out there, but we have to recognize this is not enough,” Worsham said. “We will be using a full court press to try to increase that number to more than 100 partners over the coming months.”

Cotton producers may soon be called to help in that effort with their time and their knowledge. “We need to continue to upgrade our data in terms of some of the metrics we are trying to promote. Probably in the next several months we will be sending out requests for growers to help us with this information.”

For more information on this effort, go to




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