The $819 billion stimulus package passed by the House on a party line vote contains at least one provision that could prove helpful to cotton producers and other segments of the U.S. cotton industry.
The bill, which was approved by a vote of 244-188, contains an amendment mandating that textile and apparel products purchased by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration be made with 100 percent U.S. content.
The amendment, offered by Rep. Larry Kissell, D-N.C., extends the current Berry amendment (named for Rep. Marion Berry, Democrat from Arkansas) program to the Department of Homeland Security but only would cover prospective procurement of uniforms and other textile product for TSA workers by the U.S. government.
“We would like to thank Congressman Kissell in particular for offering this amendment which has been long sought after by the textile industry,” said Anderson Warlick, chairman of the National Council of Textile Organizations. “The Kissell amendment will provide an important stimulus to the U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing sector.
NCTO officials and other members of a coalition of textile manufacturing and producer organizations also thanked Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., David Price, D-N.C., John Spratt, D-S.C., Howard Coble, R-N.C., and Mike Michaud, D-Maine, for support in securing passage of the amendment.
“The Kissell amendment will immediately help textile and apparel companies because it will cover all uniforms purchased by the Transportation Security Administration employees,” said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition.
“This program can be expanded by the Obama administration to cover other DHS agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Immigration Service — nearly 100,000 uniformed employees in all — and we will be asking the president to make that change.”
The Kissell amendment does not require any additional taxpayer money because it involves programs that are already in place and which are already fully funded, according to Karl Spilhaus, president of the National Textile Association.
The amendment must be included in the Senate version of the American Economic and Recovery Act. The Senate is expected to consider an even larger stimulus package this week.
“Now that the House has added this critical amendment to the stimulus package, it is incumbent upon the U.S. Senate to adopt it too. We look forward to working closely with our friends in the Senate to make sure that this happens,” said Kevin M. Burke, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, another member of the coalition.
“Enactment of the Kissell amendment will have an important impact on jobs across the United States because textile and apparel companies often rely on sales of uniforms and other textile products to the government to provide critically needed employment and production,” said Ruth Stephens, executive director of the U.S. Industrial Fabrics Institute (USIFI).
“It should also be noted that the Kissell amendment was carefully crafted so as not to violate any U.S. trade agreements or obligations,” said Larry McClendon, chairman of the National Cotton Council and a cotton producer and ginner from Marianna, Ark.
The U.S. textile and apparel sector has been hit particularly hard by the economic downturn with 60,000 jobs lost during the past 12 months. In the past year, 44 textile plants have closed, including 14 in North Carolina, 10 in South Carolina, four in Georgia, seven in Alabama, and seven in Virginia.
U.S. cotton producers, who once shipped 60 percent or more of their crop to U.S. textile mills, now must export from 60 percent to 70 percent of their output to foreign textile mills, primarily in Asia.
The Berry amendment requires the U.S. Defense Department to buy certain products, judged essential to military readiness, with 100 percent U.S. content and labor. These products include clothing and other textile items, specialty steel, and food. The Berry amendment ensures military readiness through an active defense-industrial base and provides a reliable domestic source for certain vital goods during war times.
Preserving the Berry amendment is the highest priority, but efforts should be made to expand the Berry amendment to include other national security agencies, according to members of the coalition of manufacturers and cotton producer organizations.