Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and newly confirmed Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer will address the National Cotton Council’s (NCC) 70th annual meeting, set for Feb. 7-11 at The Peabody Hotel, site of the NCC’s organizational meeting in November 1938.

The meeting is expected to attract more than 800 U.S. cotton industry leaders and industry stakeholders from the 17-state Cotton Belt.

NCC delegates will review and adopt specific resolutions to guide the NCC’s 2008 programs and activities in six key program areas: farm and economic policy; international trade; public relations and international market development; research and education; packaging and distribution; and health, safety and the environment.

Lincoln, one of the top ranking Democrats on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, will address the meeting’s general session on Feb. 11. She also chairs that panel’s Production, Income Protection and Price Support Subcommittee.

Among her other assignments are service on the Finance and Energy and Natural Resource committees and as Democratic Caucus Chair of Rural Outreach — where she helps frame the majority party’s initiatives to revitalize rural America, including new investments in biofuels development, farm programs and education.

Joining Lincoln on the Feb. 11 session will be outgoing NCC Chairman John Pucheu, a California cotton producer, who will address the state of the U.S. cotton industry, including its upcoming challenges.

Gloria Borger, senior political analyst for CNN, will provide insight on the 2008 presidential race.

Pucheu said delegate-approved resolutions at the annual meeting enable the National Cotton Council to better channel its resources into the industry’s priorities.

“Council action in 2007 included a primary focus on defending the U.S. cotton program and attaining sound trade policy,” Pucheu said. “Those remain as critical areas for the U.S. cotton industry in 2008 because new farm legislation is headed to a House-Senate conference and interest has heightened on bringing the World Trade Organization negotiations to a conclusion.”

Schafer, an entrepreneur and a business executive who served as North Dakota’s Republican governor from 1992 to 2000, received unanimous Senate confirmation last week as the nation’s 29th secretary of agriculture.

He will address the annual meeting’s joint session Feb. 9. That session also will include the NCC’s “Economic Outlook” presentation and Cotton Incorporated President/CEO Berrye Worsham’s update on that organization’s efforts to increase the demand for/profitability of cotton through research and promotion.

The National Cotton Ginners Association also will hold its annual meeting that day, featuring a cotton classification outlook report from Darryl Earnest, deputy administrator USDA, AMS, Cotton and Tobacco Programs.

Among other important convention sessions are Feb. 8 meetings of the Cotton Council International board of directors and the American Cotton Producers — where the NCC’s annual “Planting Intentions Survey” will provide the year’s first insight into cotton growers’ 2008 plans.