The National Cotton Council has responded to yet another attack on U.S. farm programs by a national media organization that has had significant problems separating fact from fiction in recent months.
This time, the New York Times charged that subsidies to American cotton farmers, whose average net worth it said is nearly $1 million, are causing “massive over-production, resulting in depressed global prices and a harvest of poverty for Burkina Faso's 2 million cotton farmers.”
In a letter printed in the Times' Aug. 8 edition, the Cotton Council said the editorial “The Long Reach of King Cotton” seems to be part of a pattern for the newspaper, once considered to be the standard-bearer for journalistic excellence.
“The editorial follows the pattern of repeating unsubstantiated claims made by other sources, fails to check background material appropriately and resorts to outright fabrication when reality fails to conform to the writer's blindly held views,” said Mark Lange, the NCC's president and CEO.
“This is the same combination that finally chased one reporter from employment with the institution and contributed to the departure of two senior editors.”
Lange said the Times editorial staff seems to be following the adage that if something is said often enough, it must be true, referring to earlier editorials and articles in both it and the Wall Street Journal.
“Never mind the repeated outright misrepresentations of both U.S. and West African cotton farmers, ignore the absurd claim that there are 2 million cotton farmers in one small country, overlook the manifestly erroneous statements regarding current cotton prices, excuse the complete lack of verification of any purported fact, leap to unfounded conclusions and call it journalism,” Lange said.
“Finally, of course, no editorial of such great scope and enlightenment would be worthy of print without resort to that last great refuge of any antagonist, ‘If the US can go to the moon, then why can't it (fill in the blank with statement).’”
He said there's no doubt that farmers everywhere suffer when prices are low and some suffer more than others. “Attempts to ‘sound-bite’ policy positions and otherwise obfuscate and misrepresent the facts are at least a disservice, and at worst, wholesale lies.
“We held out the obviously mistaken hope that previously respected publications, like The New York Times, would do their homework rather than simply repeating the unsubstantiated claims run by other publications.”
The Council also provided a link on its Web site that provides substantial background about current conditions affecting world supply and demand. For more information, go to www.cotton.org.