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Who’s going to tell cotton’s story?Who’s going to tell cotton’s story?

Cotton Trust Protocol demonstrates U.S. cotton sustainability

Forrest Laws

March 22, 2022

3 Min Read
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The Cotton Trust Protocol is an NCC project aimed at demonstrating that U.S. cotton is produced sustainably.Brent Murphree

It wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to buy an article of clothing, you went into a brick-and-mortar store, examined the racks of dresses, shirts or slacks and looked to see if the products were made with U.S. cotton.

“That all changed with the Internet in the mid-90s,” said Ted Schneider, a Lake Providence, La., producer and chairman of the National Cotton Council. “Fifty percent of all apparel sales last year were done online.”

Schneider was speaking about the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol in remarks at the close of the NCC chairman’s report during the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show, which was held in-person for the first time in two years. The Cotton Trust Protocol is an NCC project aimed at demonstrating that U.S. cotton is produced sustainably.

“I was in the High Cotton awards breakfast this morning, and the four producers who were awarded the regional awards all mentioned sustainability as being important to their operation,” he said. (The High Cotton awards are sponsored annually by Farm Press Publications and The Cotton Foundation.)

The distinctive Cotton Boll awards, which were first presented in 1995, have showcased the operations of nearly 100 cotton producers who adopt conservation practices and help protect the environment on their farms and in their communities in the four regions of the Cotton Belt.

“We all have that the sustainability protocol to help us tell our story,” said Schneider, who is board chairman of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol. “That’s easy for us to say, but I wanted to go into a little more depth on what it means and why it’s so important to tell our story.

“If we don’t tell our story, there are others out there telling the story for us, and a lot of times it’s very unflattering.”

Cotton advertisement

Schneider talked about the ad campaign that ran years ago centered on “The touch, the feel of cotton, the fabric of our lives” that was developed by Cotton Incorporation, the research and promotion arm of the U.S. cotton industry.

“You probably are singing the tune in your head right now, it was very successful,” he said. “It was widely recognized, and that’s the way cotton was purchased for so long. You walked into a, a brick-and-mortar store. You would feel the fabric. We did a good job of getting people to read the label.”

That changed with the advent of the Internet so that now half of all apparel purchases are made online.

“One of our members of our first task force said it best: People no longer buy cotton by going into a store and feeling it; what they buy is the story,” he noted. “And brands and retailers have come to us saying they want us to tell that story with data. We’ve got that. Some other sustainability protocols aren’t able to provide that data.

“We’ve been told they need 6 million bales of (sustainably-grown) U.S. cotton by 2025,” he said. “We need to keep in mind there are other sources, but we’re being told they want U.S. cotton. I don’t know what will happen after 2025, but we have to provide it for them.”

To view Schneider’s full presentation, visit www.farmandginshow.com.

About the Author(s)

Forrest Laws

Forrest Laws spent 10 years with The Memphis Press-Scimitar before joining Delta Farm Press in 1980. He has written extensively on farm production practices, crop marketing, farm legislation, environmental regulations and alternative energy. He resides in Memphis, Tenn. He served as a missile launch officer in the U.S. Air Force before resuming his career in journalism with The Press-Scimitar.

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