At the National Cotton Council (NCC) mid-year board of directors meeting in Memphis, Tenn., Ted Schneider, a cotton producer from Lake Providence, La., and chairman of the COTTON USA Sustainability Task Force, announced that 150 producers have either started the enrollment process or have become U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol participants.
The Protocol is a voluntary farm-level program created by the COTTON USA Sustainability Task Force and was designed to engage U.S. cotton producers in continuous improvement to achieve the U.S. cotton industry’s 10-year environmental goals.
“To become a Protocol Producer, a grower must complete a self-assessment questionnaire, which includes entering quantitative and qualitative field-level data that will allow them to see the farm’s environmental footprint and its comparison to national and state benchmarks,” says Schneider. “The pilot phase of the program started on June 28, and our goal is to have 750 to 1,000 producers enrolled by October 2020.”
The task force met this past June and approved the governance structure and bylaws of the Protocol which has been established as a single-member LLC under the umbrella of the National Cotton Council.
The Protocol staff has been working with and accumulating information from agriculture data tool providers, verification companies, the staff and CEO of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), civil societies, merchants/cooperatives, manufacturers, brands and retailers. “We’ve worked with these organizations to accomplish a variety of things like streamlining data, creating a verification process, and sharing aggregated data across the supply chain,” says Schneider.
Over the next two months, the Protocol’s IT company, The Seam, will be developing two additional modules that will involve the development of a ‘mass balance system’ that will be used to trace a specific Protocol cotton bale to a textile mill. “One of the systems The Seam will create will allow a producer’s data to populate the FieldPrint Platform automatically,” says Schneider. “We want this to develop into an on-line program that is user friendly and provides benefits for all members of the cotton supply chain.”
The Protocol will partner with two organizations to handle the promotion and marketing aspects of the program. “We’ll have one company delivering our marketing message directed toward producers to accentuate the importance of their participation,” says Schneider. “A global marketing firm will be used to promote the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol to brands and retailers across the world. We hope to have these efforts in place by January 2020.”
Schneider clearly understands the importance of this program thanks to his role as chairman of Cotton Council International in 2018. “When I visited London, San Diego, and Bentonville, Ark., I saw the priority brands and retailers continue to place on sustainability. Many of them are working toward achieving 100 percent sustainable cotton use by 2025 or sooner,” says Schneider. “They need to have confidence in a program like ours so their sustainability claims may be validated. This is a perfect opportunity to reclaim market share lost to man-made fibers in recent years. We must have producers share their message to prove the U.S. cotton industry provides the most responsibly-grown cotton in the world.”
The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol website, www.trustUScotton.org, is fully operational and includes a description of the industry’s Journey to Sustainability, a mission statement, producer testimonials, and a tutorial video on how to enroll in the program.