With trade liberalization inevitable, the U.S. cotton industry can't afford to allow trade negotiators to be generous with U.S. market access without getting something in return.

So says National Cotton Council (NCC) President Gaylon Booker at the recent Beltwide Cotton Conference.

Booker notes that the U.S. textile industry has not been a high priority for past negotiators. He cites as evidence the average U.S. tariff rate of 8.9% compared to effective rates for textile and apparel products entering Argentina of 40-50%; Brazil, 40-70%; China 20-36%; India, 50-70% and Pakistan, 40-60%.

“We have the same kind of unlevel playing field in agricultural product tariffs,” Booker says. “The U.S. faces a 62% average allowable tariff rate when it ships agricultural products abroad, with the rate in many countries exceeding 100%. Our competitors abroad can ship their products into the U.S. and pay a modest 12% tariff.”

Booker points out that it will be crucial to make policymakers understand that “global farm policy and international trade policy must be compatible and fair. For the cotton industry, good farm policy and good trade policy must take into account the interests and needs of the U.S. textile industry.”

Biotech Raises Conservation Tillage

The availability of herbicide-tolerant cotton has encouraged cotton growers to adopt conservation tillage practices, according to a study conducted for the NCC.

The study found that reduced-till and no-till cotton acres have increased to 59% of total cotton acres since herbicide-tolerant transgenic cottons became widely available in 1997.

No-till acres have nearly doubled, to 29%, while reduced-till acres have more than doubled to account for 30% of total cotton acres.

The change is most prevalent in the Midsouth, where 66% of farmers reported an increase in conservation tillage acres over the last five years. As a result, Midsouth growers say 74% of their 2002 cotton acres were in no-till or reduced-till.

The introduction of herbicide-tolerant varieties was cited as the enabling factor by 79% of those who have moved to conservation tillage in the last five years. Roundup Ready cotton acres have tripled since 1997 and now account for 77% of total cotton acres grown in 1992.

Surveyed growers indicated that, on average, conservation tillage results in a savings of $20.13/acre for fuel and labor compared to conventional acres.

Doane Market Research conducted the survey by interviewing a random sample of 369 growers across the Cotton Belt, each with at least 250 acres of cotton. The study showed that 52% of respondents increased their no-till cotton acres from 1997 to 2002, 80% made fewer tillage passes in cotton and 75% were leaving more crop residue on the soil surface.

‘Smart’ Cotton Gauze

Cotton gauze, long used to dress wounds, is going high-tech, thanks to USDA-Agricultural Research Service scientist Vince Edwards and scientists from the Medical College of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University.

The researchers have chemically modified cotton gauze to selectively soak up an enzyme that breaks down connective tissue proteins essential to would healing. Elastase is found in elevated levels in wounds that won't heal, such as bed sores.

Edwards and his team have achieved positive results in lab tests with the chemically-modified dressing. Tissue Technologies, Richmond, VA, has licensed the technology.

LibertyLink Cotton Submitted To EPA

Bayer CropScience has submitted LibertyLink cotton to the Environmental Protection Agency for approval. The LibertyLink Cotton System is a postemergent herbicide system with varieties resistant to Liberty herbicide.

Upon registration, LibertyLink will be offered on a limited basis in varieties derived from the FiberMax genetic family, according to Bayer.

Bayer plans to release LibertyLink varieties for limited commercial production this year.