Communication with lawmakers and Administration officials, whether through meetings, letters or via the news media, was a heightened priority in 2010 as the U.S. cotton industry faced legislative and regulatory threats to its global competitiveness.
For example, accompanied by National Cotton Council (NCC) Senior Vice President of Washington Operations John Maguire, we met with Congressional leaders and Administration officials to discuss key issues, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute with Brazil and the upcoming 2012 farm bill development. Later, the NCC issued a press statement saying President Obama’s FY11 USDA budget ignored the extensive changes to production agriculture support that were embodied in the 2008 farm law and that the Administration’s proposal to eliminate the upland cotton storage credits was a failure to discern critical differences between commodities.
Responding to misinformation in the popular press also was necessary. We sent letters to the editor in response to errors contained in Wall Street Journal and Washington Post editorials about the U.S.-Brazil WTO case. Likewise, we issued a response to a negative Congressional Quarterly cover story on U.S. cotton policy and the U.S. cotton industry.
Despite these challenges, there were some bright spots in 2010.
Overall NCC resources were boosted through our members’ record-level contributions to the industry’s political action committee, the Committee for the Advancement of Cotton (CAC). This enabled the NCC to support those Congressional Members who share our priorities and to work with new Members on issues of concern.
Another positive was the Administration’s announcement of a negotiated settlement in the WTO/Brazil cotton case – one that avoids the immediately harmful economic effects of trade retaliation and puts the serious discussion concerning U.S. cotton program changes before Congress in the 2012 farm bill. Even though a minimal impact will be felt near term by our industry, the longer-term implications are more serious with the potential of having to make significant cotton program changes.
On an unprecedented note, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson met with the NCC and the chairmen of five other commodity groups at EPA headquarters to discuss key regulatory issues that could affect agriculture, including the contentious NCC vs. EPA case regarding the permitting of pesticide applications over U.S. waters. The Supreme Court's failure to review the case created an uncertain regulatory future for the application of agricultural crop inputs. However, Secretary Vilsack responded favorably to our request for future meetings to talk about such issues and suggested these be discussed in working groups established with commodity group representatives, USDA and EPA.
Perhaps one of the most encouraging developments was that global demand for cotton and cotton products experienced an upturn, along with a need to refill fiber and textile pipelines worldwide. It’s a fact: the world needs more cotton fiber – particularly in rapidly developing economies like China and India – and the NCC’s overseas promotion arm, Cotton Council International (CCI), is committed to capitalizing on that opportunity.
The Cotton Foundation continued its important role in industry members’ quest for profitability. The Foundation’s agribusiness members contributed dues of $278,800 in support of 20 general research and education projects during the Foundation’s 2010-11 year.
With the support provided to both CCI and to the Foundation, coupled with the insight of visionary leaders and a dedicated staff, we are optimistic that a prosperous decade for the U.S. cotton industry lies ahead. Nevertheless, increased financial support for the NCC and more involvement by industry members will remain top priorities..
President/Chief Executive Officer