NCC Letter to the Editor to The New York Times

NCC letter to the editor in response to Aug. 5 New York Times editorial, "The Long Reach of King Cotton."

Published: August 8, 2003
Updated: August 8, 2003

A recent editorial in The New York Times, "The Long Reach of King Cotton," continues a now all too familiar path for this once vaunted publication. 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. This is the same combination that finally chased one reporter from employment with the institution and contributed to the departure of two senior editors.

A substantial portion of the editorial follows an adage: if something is said often enough, it must be true. 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.

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)."

Farmers everywhere suffer when prices are low and some suffer more than others. A review of the circumstances surrounding world agricultural markets takes more than a column in The New York Times. 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.

Mark D. Lange, President & CEO
National Cotton Council of America
Memphis, Tennessee