Cotton researchers should “carefully examine all aspects” of varieties to give a more significant role to quality traits, says a resolution adopted by the Delta Council's Ginning and Cotton Quality Improvement Committee.

“Cotton quality discounts resulting from inconsistent length, uniformity, and micronaire are especially costly to Delta farming operations,” the resolution notes.

It urges scientists at the Delta Branch Experiment Station, Stoneville, Miss., to study competing varieties “in order to properly characterize their behavior under the various environmental conditions for growing cotton in the Mississippi Delta.”

Such trials, the resolution says, would be similar to variety trials that emphasize yield, and would focus on quality parameters “that should continue to play a more significant role in the reporting of various quality characteristics.”

Mississippi State University and USDA scientists should develop a team approach to establish minimum standards for managing quality control in cotton production, it says, especially during termination of the crop, harvest preparation, harvest, and ginning.

Another committee resolution urges the Congress to provide additional funds to the USDA Cotton Ginning Laboratory at Stoneville during the next fiscal year “in order to accelerate the capacity of commercial cotton gins to meet the growing demands of the cotton market.”

The facility, the resolution says, “has been vitally important to the fiber quality and economics of cotton production and processing in the Mississippi Delta. The advances in cotton ginning technology that have been developed at the laboratory have enabled gins to remain compliant with regulatory standards of the Environmental Protection Agency, while at the same time constantly improving the management of fiber quality.”

The resolution urges the facility “to continue to emphasize the study of all aspects of reducing costs and increasing marketable cotton lint that possesses the characteristics that respond to prevailing market signals, with special attention focused on the behavior and quality of newer, higher-yielding cotton varieties at the gin.”

Additional money will be needed to facilitate these goals, said Bill Kennedy, chairman of the council committee. “With funds available now, the lab can't keep the people it has, much less expand its research efforts.”

In a third resolution, the committee urged the Congress “to establish permanent law” that would provide income and price stabilization for the cottonseed industry, suggesting that the National Cotton Council “develop a consensus-based approach to establish policy proposals for the implementation and administration of such a program.”

The council expressed appreciation to the Congress “for recognizing the importance of price stabilization for cottonseed by providing assistance for the 1999, 2000, and 2001 crop seasons — without which the infrastructure of the cotton industry would have been severely jeopardized and huge debt would have been incurred by cotton ginning and cottonseed crushing operations.”

Congress “has been talking about” authorizing permanent language, Kennedy said, but it would not become effective until adoption of the next farm bill.

The council also approved a resolution expressing concern that “access to credible, independent, third-party data related to the impact of jobs and economic activity from production agriculture in the Delta is not readily available,” and asking Mississippi State University to develop new economic models.

“Current economic models utilized by Mississippi State University might not provide the necessary economic indicators or county-level economic profile to fully evaluate the impact of jobs and economic activity associated with allied agricultural businesses spanning from the agricultural input industry, processing, warehousing, marketing, distribution, and transportation that comprise the Gross Domestic Product of agriculture for the Mississippi Delta region,” the resolution said.

It proposes that a joint committee of Mississippi State University specialists, representatives of allied agricultural businesses, and farm leaders “develop methods and implement the necessary evaluations and surveys to gather annual economic data that will accurately reflect those economic indices that are important to future planning and the overall development of the agricultural industry as a major employer in the region.”

“Government and business is becoming more removed from the knowledge of what agriculture really means to the economy of our state,” Kennedy said. “What we'd like is for Mississippi State University to come up with data that identify agriculture-related jobs and the economic impact of agriculture on the state, so we don't have to talk in rhetorical terms, but can have hard figures to back it up.”


e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com