NEW ORLEANS – The Cotton Research and Promotion program, facing “difficult legal challenges,” is “crucial to maintaining growth in cotton demand,” the chairman of the National Cotton Council said at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences today.

The program, funded by checkoff contributions from U.S. cotton growers and by assessments on importers, supports the highly successful research and promotion efforts of Cotton Incorporated and has been instrumental in boosting cotton’s market share domestically and internationally.

“As a direct result of our efforts, the U.S. leads the world in per capita consumption of cotton products,” says Colorado City, Texas producer Woody Anderson. “We know the value of this research and promotion program. We are the cotton market of the world, and our annual consumption of cotton textile and apparel products exceeds our own level of cotton production.”

The industry “is taking a direct role” in defending the program against current legal challenges, says Anderson, who also serves on the board of the Cotton Research and Promotion Defense Council that is overseeing the efforts.

“It will be a difficult case, given recent court decisions, but I’m confident we will be successful.”

The council is continuing to work closely with other commodity and farm groups to defend key provision of the current U.S. farm bill, Anderson says. Council testimony before Congress and efforts in meetings with administration officials have been directed toward maintaining “balanced and effective legislation.”

While the cotton industry appreciates the way the farm bill has been implemented, he says every effort needs to be made to “keep the farm law intact” through its intended life span.

The council supposed disaster legislation that was adopted as part of the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, but “unfortunately, some of the costs of the $14.5 billion package were offset by reductions in the Conservation Security Program, and the council and other agricultural groups expressed grave concern about reopening the 2002 farm bill.” Efforts were also made to insure that the CSP would cover viable commercial-size operations and allow participation of cotton producers in all areas of the belt.

e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com