Cotton Council International (CCI), the export promotions arm of National Cotton Council’s, celebrated 50 years of increasing exports of U.S. cotton, cottonseed and their products with a reception at Union Station in Washington, D.C.

Keynote speakers at the event included Sen. Thad Cochran, Miss.-R, chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, and Hunter H. Moorhead, special assistant to the president for agriculture, trade and food assistance.

CCI President David Burns, a North Carolina producer, said that at CCI’s inception in 1956, the industry was in crisis: stocks were the highest in recent memory, man-made fibers were on the move and exports were the lowest they had been in a decade. That year U.S. cotton exporters shipped only 2.2 million bales.

The supply-demand industry crisis of the 1950s led to the NCC signing the first “cooperator agreement” with USDA in 1955, and that led in 1956 to the incorporation of Cotton Council International.

CCI’s focus was — and still remains — export market development.

“By comparison, today’s global mill demand for cotton is more than four times greater than in 1956,” Burns said. “For the 2005-06 marketing year, the U.S. is projected to export nearly 17 million bales, which translates to more than a seven-fold increase in exports compared with 1956 and represents around 70 percent of current U.S. production.”

Burns added that although U.S. exports of cotton yarn, thread and fabric constituted a small portion of total production in 1956, they now exceed 3.6 million bale-equivalents, bringing total exports of U.S. cotton and cotton products to close to 21 million bales.

“Times have changed, and exports have gotten more important — and our support for export market development has become vital,” Burns said. “We have big challenges ahead of us as an industry, but we also have excellent leadership and institutions in place to meet those challenges. Cotton Council International is one of those great institutions, and this year we celebrate the fact that CCI is in this business for the long run.”

Working in more than 50 countries overseas, CCI represents the export promotion interests of the seven segments of the U.S. cotton industry — producers, ginners, warehousers, merchants, cottonseed handlers, cooperatives and manufacturers. The foundation of CCI’s program is the Cotton USA Mark, a registered trademark which identifies quality cotton products with high U.S. cotton content.

The Cotton USA export promotion program is geared to help overseas consumers recognize the unique qualities and services of U.S. cotton and U.S. cotton products.