The U.S. cotton industry is poised to emerge from recent challenges “stronger and better prepared,” and looking forward to new opportunities, National Cotton Council Chairman Eddie Smith told delegates to the National Cotton Council’s annual meeting at San Antonio, Texas.

“We see optimism for U.S. cotton as acreage continues to rebound in response to current prices,” he said in his farewell address as NCC chairman.

He says 2011 will provide profit opportunities for cotton, with continued good prices and a surge in plantings, predicted to top 12.5 million acres. But he also pointed to challenges, including early discussions on the 2012 farm bill, continued concern with trade issues and the Doha Round of GATT, the effect the Brazil WTO case will have on the 2012 farm bill debate and ongoing concerns over regulatory issues.

“We will continue to discuss budget issues in an extremely difficult environment in Washington. Our efforts in Washington underscore our need to keep the Committee for the Advancement of Cotton (CAC) political action committee well-funded.”

 

Top concerns

Smith says the 2012 farm bill and the influence of the Brazil case will be top concerns for 2011. The council’s Farm Bill Task Force will make certain that the organization “is prepared for every possibility” as discussions on the new legislation begin this year.

He says 2010 was a “successful year for the council and for support for its priorities; we have sound policies in place.”

He cited the progress of Vision 21, a project jointly sponsored by the NCC, Cotton Council International and Cotton Incorporated, as a big step in addressing three key issues in the cotton industry — sustainability (measuring cotton’s environmental footprint), cotton flow, and fundamentals of the Chinese and Indian markets.

Data from that project, which was funded by an initial grant form Monsanto and with additional support from John Deere, show that a “prosperous decade lies ahead.”

A special video presentation highlighted council activities last year, including opposition to a proposal to form “reconstruction opportunity zones” in Pakistan and Afghanistan that would create competitive advantages for textile manufacturing to the detriment of the U.S. textile industry.

The council opposed the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision on interpretation of the Clean Water Act that would restrict pesticide applications. It also urged U.S. trade law enforcement.

The council worked to get USDA to issue a final rule for “actively engaged” that more clearly reflected the intent of Congress, stressed the importance of maintaining a baseline budget and continued support of the marketing loan.

The NCC and other farm organizations met with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to discuss a “broad array of environmental issues.”

Smith says the council expressed concern about threats to producers’ “ability to employ the latest technology and with proposed greenhouse gas legislation.”

Countering the administration’s budget proposal that would have cut farm program funding by $11 billion was a key issue for the council in 2010.

Other issues that required council attention in 2010 included estate tax reform, concerns with Brazil’s retaliation permitted in their case against U.S. cotton (that was at least temporarily resolved with a framework agreement to delay reparation and included a concession to consider the Brazil claims in the 2012 farm bill).

Smith says the council made considerable gains in support last year, including 19 new gin members representing 500,000 bales of cotton as new NCC support. “I am encouraged by the continued efforts to increase council membership. Also CAC exceeded its funding goals.”

The upturn in cotton demand allowed the council to “capitalize on opportunities created by the China demand,” Smith says. “That demand is growing.”

He says export promotion through Cotton Council International helped move cotton into hot markets.

Smith expressed thanks to NCC staff and delegates for supporting the industry and for the “exceptional leadership” that continues to drive the council’s success.