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Third-party verification can help, not hinder growers

Third-party verification requirements can benefit farmers rather than cause more headaches.

Growers considering enrolling in the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol or the Better Cotton Initiative sustainability-enhancement programs may be concerned about their third-party verification requirements.

But, unlike with IRS audits or other intrusive activities, the third-party verification requirements can benefit farmers rather than cause more headaches, according to two producers who have participated in both programs.

“On the Better Cotton Initiative or BCI side we’ve had a third-party verification, and it was painless,” said Jesse Flye, who farms in Poinsett County, Ark. “It’s not the IRS. It’s usually somebody in the cotton industry that’s a friend. In the long run, it’s beneficial. If there’s something you’re not doing, they will point out how to make it happen.

“If that’s the scary part for growers, don’t be concerned about that. First off, it’s a small amount that will be audited, and it’s not a big deal to get it done.”

“They’re almost like guidance counselors – they’re not like IRS auditors,” said Dr. Bill Robertson, Extension cotton specialist with the University of Arkansas, who moderated the April 2 Soil and Water Conservation Virtual Field Trip.

The Virtual Field Trips are funded by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and hosted by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

Valid program

“This is in response to the brands and retailers who are seeking sustainably-sourced cotton,” said Nathan Reed, who farms in Lee and St. Francis Counties. “To have a valid program you have to have third-party verification.

“But the people who are doing it are people who are already in the cotton industry and not some environmental wacko who’s here to get you,” he said. “It’s often a local person that’s in the industry who is coming out to help you. That is a holdup – strangers coming to your farm and looking at your practices – but it’s somebody who is coming to help you.”

Both growers said they recommend the programs to their neighbors.

“For the American cotton industry, it is a very good thing,” said Reed. “It will keep American cotton viable in the future. There probably won’t be any premiums right now, but anything that creates more demand will bring better prices and maybe premiums later.”

“It tell everybody I talk to to get signed up and get every acre of U.S. cotton in the program,” said Flye. “And let’s be in good shape for the long run.”

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