NCC Responds to Washington Post’s Misleading Editorial

In a letter to the editor, the NCC says an Oct. 18 Washington Post editorial, “Cotton Candy” is full of errors, insinuations and political posturing.

Published: October 18, 2010
Updated: October 18, 2010

The National Cotton Council Response to the Washington Post’s “Cotton Candy”

October 18, 2010

The Washington Post has decided to open its mouth and insert a foot or has chosen to speak outright lies. In an article so full of errors, insinuations and political posturing, setting the record straight will take some space. Based on data from USDA, the United States is the third largest cotton producing country in the world, yet according to the Washington Post the United States controls 80 percent of the world’s cotton market. Based on data from USDA, the United States accounts for only 16 percent of world cotton output and less than 3 percent of world cotton mill use. The Washington Post is woefully short on fact checking. 

In one of its most astoundingly thoughtless statements, the Washington Post says the U.S. cotton producer is fortunate that the U.S. textile industry was virtually decimated by imports from China that destroyed hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs. According to the Washington Post, the U.S. cotton growers see “their business less risky” when selling to foreign interests than domestic industries. China is now the single largest market for U.S. raw cotton. Is China less risky than a robust domestic industry? Trade policy destroyed a stable market and American jobs while putting U.S. cotton farmers’ economic fate in the hands of Chinese industrial planners.  According to the Washington Post, we are all better off.

It would not be a Washington Post editorial without a cheap shot at a southern Senator.  Chairman Lincoln sought assistance for all farmers in 2009 whose crops had been severely damaged by weather events. Today’s high prices are small consolation to producers, who in 2009 had little to no crops for harvest. According to the Washington Post, today’s cotton market situation is sufficient justification for ignoring last year’s disaster. Continuing their misrepresentations, the Washington Post would have the reader believe that the majority of any assistance from the Obama administration will be provided to cotton growers. A little fact checking by Washington Post staff would show that cotton acres account for only 8 percent of all planted crop acres in the affected region. U.S. cotton producers responded to market signals and substantially reduced cotton planted acres. Those acres were shifted into the production of grains and oilseeds whose prices were supported by government incentives to produce biofuels.

In addition, no Washington Post editorial on agriculture can resist the obligatory jab at direct payments. The Washington Post conveniently ignores the fact that direct payments are almost the only U.S. farm program component that is fully consistent with our WTO obligations. Direct payments to all commodity program participants amount to about $6 billion annually. When these payments were created, Congress reduced other commodity price-related supports in the agriculture safety net. The elimination of the direct payments is not sound trade policy and would not necessarily be a fixed savings if other price-related program components are adjusted for the loss of the direct payments.

Scurrilous editorials damage all parties. With the media being held in increasing disregard, the Washington Post is digging a deeper hole instead of providing solid and factual reporting.