If U.S. cotton producers are to continue achieving better yields, quality, and costs reductions, they will need to make optimum use of new technologies, says Robert Greene, National Cotton Council chairman.

“With cotton producers planting 76 percent of their acreage to transgenic varieties in 2003, the council has continued to work for government approval of these products and to insure that resulting cotton and cottonseed products aren't confronted with marketing restrictions,” he said at the annual Beltwide Cotton Conferences at San Antonio.

The council's Quality Task Force, he said, is working with “critical quality issues,” ranging from short fiber content to moisture management. A recommendation that cotton be baled with no more than 7.5 percent moisture will insure that the fiber's color and other quality characteristics won't be degraded by excess bale moisture, Greene said.

Concerns over quality loss and potential risks to producers have been at the center of the council's opposition to USDA's interim rule to permit outside storage of loan-eligible extra long staple cotton.

Ginners, warehousemen, and packaging suppliers have also been urged to use only USDA-approved packaging materials, he said, and the council's bale management education program is aimed at improved cotton flow by reducing the number of lightweight and heavyweight bales.

“We also stepped up the industry's campaign to eliminate lint contamination by keeping plastic strings, ropes, and sacks out of seed cotton before it gets to the gin,” Greene said.

The council has endorsed the Environmental Protection Agency's implementation of the Endangered Species Act and provided support for both new product registrations and the re-registration of existing cotton production products.

“Boll weevil eradication is continuing on 10 million acres,” he said. “Only three areas, comprising less than 3 percent of U.S. cotton acreage, have yet to begin the program. The effort to eradicate the pink bollworm is making excellent programs during the program's first phase in far west Texas, New Mexico, and Chihuahua, Mexico, and there are plans for expansion of the program into Arizona upon approval by growers.”

e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com