Texas Tech University President Lawrence Schovanec and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach signed a historic cooperative agreement July 1, that will move Lubbock’s current cotton classing facility to campus.
The agreement between Texas Tech and the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Cotton and Tobacco (C&T) Program will establish a new cotton classing facility north of Fourth Street on Texas Tech Parkway, across from the Rawls Golf Course. It will be the first collaboration on a cotton classing facility between the C&T Program and an institution of higher learning.
To view video interviews, see Texas Tech, USDA sign historic agreement
“When Texas Tech was established, its mission emphasized service and engagement with the agricultural industry in West Texas. That commitment continues today, and this agreement represents an opportunity to expand our service to the agricultural industry,” Schovanec said. “The USDA’s cotton classing facility will bring together agricultural and research communities in a collaborative partnership to strengthen the cotton industry that is so critical to West Texas and the state.”
The current facility, located at 4316 Ironton Ave., is one of several across the U.S. that measures and classifies cotton by its specific physical attributes, which enables the cotton to be marketed by producers and gives precise information to consumers regarding the cotton fibers. This allows it to be used in the most optimized way to produce top-quality cotton products.
The USDA hopes the new agreement will provide a collaborative model to cultivate the long-standing partnership between the USDA and Texas Tech and benefit the cotton industry on the South Plains, the national cotton industry and the university.
“This agreement is the first of its kind for USDA, and we are excited to establish this partnership with Texas Tech University,” Ibach said. “The new on-campus, state-of-the-art cotton classing facility will present a unique opportunity to enhance student education, expand access to cotton-related research and provide potential employment for both undergraduate and post-graduate students. The agreement provides a model for collaboration between USDA and Texas Tech to cultivate a long-standing partnership that will benefit the Lubbock area cotton industry, the university, the surrounding community and the U.S. cotton industry.”
According to the USDA, the Lubbock cotton classing facility is one of the largest in the U.S. and the world, routinely classifying approximately 20 percent of the U.S. cotton crop. It tests an average of three to 4 million cotton samples annually. With the new facility, it is estimated the Lubbock cotton classing facility will be able to classify up to 5 million cotton samples per year.
Texas Tech is a world leader in cotton research, mostly in seed and fiber development. Led by the Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute (FBRI) within the Department of Plant and Soil Science, the work by researchers at the FBRI has led to the development of better cotton through the introduction of new genetic information as well as construction of a custom-built micro-gin that mimics full-sized gins, giving researchers a better understanding of what cotton goes through in the ginning process.
The partnership will provide students and researchers enhanced education and research opportunities in developing fiber measurement technology, automation and robotics, fiber phenomics, prototyping and calibration and for testing of new instruments and technology.
Texas Tech researchers are considered some of the world’s leading experts on cotton, from department chairman Eric Hequet, who has performed extensive research in the areas of cotton breeding and biotechnology that improve cotton fiber properties, to Darren Hudson, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, who performs cotton and market-related analysis that is used to help establish cotton prices and protection for farmers.
The addition of the cotton classing facility to the Texas Tech campus will not only enhance the quality of research performed by experts and the level of education received by students but also provide a more prominent and centralized location for cotton classification operations and allow for more collaborative research opportunities between C&T and Texas Tech. It also will provide students more internship and employment opportunities.
The agreement signing was attended by U.S. Reps. Jodey Arrington, who represents the 19th district, including Lubbock, and serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, and Mike Conaway, who represents the 11th district, including Midland, Odessa and San Angelo and who serves as the ranking member of the House Committee on Agriculture.
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