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Why should cotton growers care about Cotton Incorporated?

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  • Cotton Incorporated is funded by check-off dollars assessed on each bale of cotton marketed in the U.S. or the equivalent imported into the country. The assessment is $1 plus .5 percent of a bale’s value. Why should cotton farmers care?

A cynical eye would see it as just another dog-and-pony show. But as for the Cotton Incorporated multi-region producer tour held recently, the dogs did cool tricks and the ponies were thoroughbreds.

Each year about this time, Cotton Incorporated invites cotton producers from across the country to tour its headquarters located in Cary, N.C. It’s a pretty big deal with more than 100 folks from all cotton-growing regions flying into or driving to the area for a long weekend. Between some wine and dine, the event’s meat is an organized tour of the headquarters, which is its research and development hub.

Some quick history if you didn’t know: In 1960, cotton apparel and home fabrics accounted for 78 percent of all textile products sold. Over the next decade, that market share was cut in half by synthetic fibers, still cotton’s most formidable competitor. At the behest of cotton growers, Congress passed the Cotton Research and Promotion Act of 1966, establishing the assessment check-off and setting up money and plans for cotton to regain its place in the market. From this, Cotton Incorporated was created in 1970.

Cotton Incorporated is still funded by check-off dollars assessed on each bale of cotton marketed in the U.S. or the equivalent imported into the country. The assessment is $1 plus .5 percent of a bale’s value. Its annual budget fluctuates, depending on how much cotton is produced and sold each year. The budget this year is $80 million.

Why should U.S. cotton growers care about Cotton Incorporated or what it does? Well, pretty much half of its annual budget comes from cotton farmers’ pockets or is taken off the top at point of bale sale. That’s money, theoretically, that farmers could spend on something else.

Most farmers on the tour were impressed with the facility and folks working it, enough to ask many questions and to request more details on on-going projects, of which there are hundreds ranging from on-farm production, fiber processing, dyeing and finishing, product development and testing, and market analysis and advertising. Cotton Incorporated will spend $22 million alone on marketing and advertising cotton in the coming year. You’ve seen the logo: the word “cotton” written in a lower-case cursive font crowned by a fluffy cotton boll.

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