The National Cotton Council says proposed changes to federal cotton research and Extension programs will undercut the U.S. cotton industry’s ability to compete in the global marketplace.

Specifically, the budget proposes to close USDA cotton ginning laboratories in Lubbock, Texas, and Las Cruces, N.M. In addition, research, including work aimed at irrigation efficiency, improved integrated pest management and fiber quality enhancement, would receive significant cuts. These efforts are being carried out at ARS facilities from coast to coast, including Florence, S.C.; Clemson, S.C.; Tifton, Ga.; Auburn, Ala.; Stoneville, Miss.; College Station, Texas; Lubbock, Texas; and Shafter, Calif.

The Bush administration’s 2007 budget proposal would slash more than $8.3 million from USDA Agricultural Research Service programs related to cotton – a 15 percent cut of the total allocation from this agency. The budget also proposes shifts of USDA funds allocated to agricultural experiment stations and Extension that could strike at the foundations of those state and regional programs.

“These proposed changes come at a time when the U.S. cotton industry is exporting 70 percent of its fiber but is competing fiercely against foreign cotton growths and man-made fibers,” said Sid Brough, an Edroy, Texas, ginner who chairs the NCC’s Research and Education Committee. “These changes would undermine research and Extension activities essential to improving production and processing efficiency, which is critical to our competitiveness and profitability.”