A two-year project now under way by the National Cotton Council, Cotton Council International, and Cotton Incorporated is aimed at identifying and addressing critical issues that face the cotton industry near-term.

“Vision 21,” which is short for “Vision of U.S. Cotton’s 21st Century,” is taking a three-pronged approach to the $1.5 million project, Fred Johnson, vice-president for administration and program coordinator for the National Cotton Council, told members of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at their summer meeting at Branson, Mo.

The groundwork for the project was laid two years ago by senior staff of the three cotton organizations, he says, following “a generous offer” by Monsanto to provide a $1 million grant as seed money for identifying the priority areas of research and conducting the necessary studies to assist the cotton industry with strategic thinking.

A special industry committee of the Council reviewed and approved the staff’s recommendations for Vision 21, which is a special project of the Cotton Foundation, the Council’s research and education division.

Vision 21 consists of three sub-projects, Johnson says.

The first is an analysis of the Asian consumer apparel and textile markets, with a primary focus on China and India and emphasis on major metropolitan areas.

“This includes the establishment of ongoing data collection processes in the region and an analysis of Asian consumer behavior in the purchase of textile and apparel products. Planning and coordination of the data collection and analysis will be conducted jointly by Cotton Council International and Cotton Incorporated.”

A component of this apparel and textile market research segment is a strategic study being conducted by Cotton Council International, “Impact of Seven Revolutions on Cotton Products.”

‘This program is examining the forces that will have an impact on the world’s textile and apparel complex in year 2025,” Johnson says. “Sessions are being organized to bring together stakeholders in four separate global markets:

Western Hemisphere, Greater Europe, South Asia and China/Hong Kong.”

The second area of Vision 21 is sustainability and the environmental aspects of U.S. cotton production, storage, transport, textile processing, apparel manufacturing and consumer handling. Cotton Incorporated is the primary manager of this sub-project, with assistance from CCI and NCC.

The third area addresses cotton logistics and flow in light of today’s changing production and shipping focus points. An analysis of optimal organization of U.S. raw cotton storage is also part of the study.

“This study acknowledges that the location of U.S. cotton production has shifted dramatically, while the endpoints for the delivery of baled lint have also changed,” Johnson says.

In the Asian Consumer Research sub-project, a “Seven Revolutions” session was conducted at CCI’s Summit at Austin, Texas, last November, and additional sessions are being planned in the future.

“These forums focus on the critical factors impacting the global cotton textile and apparel industry, such as population, resources, technology economic integration and governance,” Johnson says.

“The China demand study is under way, with the selection of a contracting firm and the development of a survey, which will ask Chinese consumers about their buying habits for textiles and apparel along with demographic information such as household income. Based on the data being collected, a forecasting tool will be developed to predict future trends and demands for apparel, home textile and footwear in China.”

CCI has an ongoing consumer research survey in India, with data collected over the past six years. These data will be used for the development of a forecast model to project trends in consumption and fiber preferences.

“This work area provides for a critical assessment of Asia, the fastest growing consumer market for cotton textiles and apparel for the next 20 years,” Johnson says. “This examination of the forces impacting textile and apparel production and overall world development drivers will be critical to the promotion programs and development of the formation of appropriate policy in future trade agreements.

In the sustainability sub-project, work is currently under way to develop a commercially viable definition for “sustainable” that is workable for all aspects of U.S. cotton production, processing and consumer uses and which incorporates many of the technologies and practices that are being currently employed.

“Cotton Incorporated and Council staff have already been involved in crafting a positive sustainability message for cotton production and processing,” Johnson notes. “This area of work will involve a life cycle analysis for typical polyester and cotton products that move beyond production and processing to consumer handling and disposal.

“U.S. cotton’s sustainability message is already a very positive one and will be further strengthened by this study, which reaches beyond production and processing to the consumer.’

Cotton Incorporated staff have identified several firms for conducting the life cycle studies, he says, and it is expected they will distribute a request for proposals to these firms later this summer, with a contract to be awarded shortly after that.

The study of cotton logistics and flow “will acknowledge that two states now account for more than 50 percent of U.S. cotton production, and that the 40-year trend for 70 percent of U.S. production to be consumed by U.S. mills has been reversed, with more than that now going into the export market,” Johnson says.

The study also calls for an analysis of optimal organization of U.S. raw cotton storage.

An industry oversight committee of the Council was established in 2008 to assist in the development of a request for proposal and selection of a contracting firm.

“Proposals were received earlier this year, but were termed inadequate by the committee. Restated requests for proposal were distributed to interested firms, along with comprehensive background materials on the cotton industry, generally, and warehousing practices and cotton logistics, specifically. The firm to conduct this study will be selected early in August and its representatives will meet with the industry oversight committee during the Council’s mid-year meeting in late August.

“The study’s primary objective is the identification of the cotton flow strategies, systems, and practices that our industry can employ to reduce costs and improve returns while meeting the demands of moving our cotton to market.”

Of the total $1.5 million projected budget for Vision 21, $700,000 will be devoted to the Asian Consumer Market assessment, $300,000 for the Sustainability sub-project, $250,000 to conduct the Cotton Flow and Logistics study, and $250,000 for a communications component.

“The communications effort will follow the completion of the three primary areas of work and will involve the dissemination of the findings and analysis to U.S. cotton industry leaders and affiliated interests,” Johnson says. “This work will provide our industry the opportunity for building consensus on future initiatives, programs and policies.”

Vision 21 was launched in August last year and it is projected that all three sub-projects will be completed within two years of the launch date. Management and administration of the project is shared between the Council, CCI, and CI, with the Council being the primary coordinator for the Cotton Flow and Logistics Study, CCI coordinating the Asian Market Research Work, and Cotton Incorporated taking the lead on sustainability. Staff from all three organizations are directly involved in each of the sub-projects.

Beyond the $1million in the initial Monsanto grant, Johnson says, meetings are being arranged with five other Cotton Foundation member firms to seek funding commitments for the remaining $500,000 of the $1.5 million budget.

“It is often difficult to look beyond our immediate issues —which are certainly critical, especially when you consider that they include farm bill implementation, Doha trade negotiations, the Brazil WTO case and a host of regulatory issues impacting all industry segments — but Vision 21 is a necessary undertaking that will benefit our entire industry.”

e-mail: hbrandon@farmpress.com