erhaps the most daunting task the U.S. cotton industry confronted in 2004 was shielding the 2002 farm law from compromising amendments and attacks from international forces. At the same time, we faced the equally important task of influencing trade negotiations that affected the industry’s ability to compete in the global marketplace.
Protecting U.S. cotton’s investment in the current farm legislation challenged the National Cotton Council’s mettle. That’s why, at every turn, we seized the opportunity to testify before Congress and meet with key lawmakers and USDA officials. We conveyed how important that law is to each U.S. cotton producer, to the entire industry’s infrastructure and to the Cotton Belt economy.
That effort will continue post-election. There is concern that when Congress addresses the budget deficit in 2005, there will again be attempts to compromise farm law. We will continue to emphasize the fact that farm program expenditures have been under spent by $17 billion during the first three years of the farm bill.
Because farm law and trade are intertwined, the NCC must not back down from international threats. We will continue to support the Administration on its appeal of the Brazil dispute ruling that said the U.S. cotton program was World Trade Organization-inconsistent and trade-distorting. We will remain steadfast in monitoring WTO negotiations to ensure our commodity’s farm program components are not unfairly targeted.
Other ongoing trade challenges will be: 1) negotiating for workable free trade agreements, including a Central American Free Trade Agreement with improved textile provisions and 2) pressing for implementation of safeguards against surging Chinese cotton product imports.
The U.S. cotton industry will need to expand its global leadership role. That includes furthering the partnership with the U.S. government on such initiatives as the USDA/USAID program to help West African countries improve their production, processing and marketing.
Cotton Council International (CCI) played a major role this past year in strengthening key markets in Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. Additional Market Access Program funding for fiscal 2005 will enable CCI to build on its already successful COTTON USA promotion program.
Efforts were redoubled on cotton quality and flow in 2004, including the escalation of NCC’s seed cotton/lint contamination prevention campaign and development of a comprehensive plan to address quality problems occurring in Georgia and other parts of the Southeast.
The NCC was diligent on a wide range of other technical activities and programs. Among those was pressing for necessary federal funding for the boll weevil and pink bollworm eradication programs and lending oversight to current operations and future direction.
The Cotton Foundation’s competitive edge is as sharp as ever. For 2004-05, the institution is putting $393,000 toward cotton research and education - support that is fostering the provision of new products, systems and techniques to help industry members reduce their fiber production, processing and handling costs.
Strengthening overall NCC operations was a priority in 2004. The Board approved a new finance plan to be presented to NCC delegates for adoption at the 2005 Annual Meeting. This follows a successful merger of the crusher and whole cottonseed interests into a new “cottonseed” segment. The NCC Board also adopted a two-tier NCC membership plan to reward high participation level states with greater American Cotton Producers and NCC representation.
Even though member participation is at a record level, the NCC will need strong support across all industry sectors. Ample resources, coupled with visionary leaders and a dedicated staff, are ingredients necessary for NCC to continue guiding the U.S. cotton industry through the legislative and regulatory trials it surely will face in 2005, for the remainder of the decade and beyond.
Woody Anderson, Chairman (2004)
Mark D. Lange, President/CEO