Green Cotton

February 3rd, 2012 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Green Cotton

The U.S. organic cotton market continues to grow, encouraged by consumer demand, price premiums, and regulatory shifts that will ease marketing restrictions for organic cotton products, according to the 2010 and Preliminary 2011 U.S. Organic Cotton Production & Marketing Trends report conducted by the Organic Trade Association (OTA). The survey, produced by OTA with funding by Cotton Incorporated, showed planted acres were up 36 percent, to reach 11,827 acres, in 2010, while bales harvested were up nearly 24 percent.

While 2011 saw the largest number of acres planted since 1999, harvested acres and bales are expected to be down by 38 and 45 percent, respectively, due to a devastating drought in the Southern Plains. The extremely dry conditions in Texas forced farmers there to abandon more than 65 percent of their planted crop in 2011.

A modest acreage gain of two percent is forecast for 2012, bringing plantings of U.S. organic cotton to 16,406 acres. Another two percent net gain is in the five-year forecast, bringing the total to 16,716 acres.

I know these numbers on a crop that we don’t even eat can seem pretty dry and uninteresting, but organic cotton is very significant to the overall health and well being of our farming community. There are a number of important differences between conventional and organic cotton. Starting from the tilling of the soil to the selection of seeds, labor paid and water used, organic cotton farming requires significant investment of time and resources to radically overhaul conventional cotton growing methods. Thus, growth in organic cotton production is important for several reasons:

1) Cotton is a crop that attracts a wide range of insects and this is one of the reasons why it is one of the largest pesticide dependent crops in the world.

2) Conventional seeds are treated with herbicides and insecticides and are frequently genetically modified while are organic seeds are untreated and GMO- free.

3) Conventional soil uses synthetic fertilizers; requires intensive irrigation, and creates soil loss through mono-crop plantings. Organic cotton benefits from using beneficial insects and other natural methods for insect and weed control.

4) With the harvesting of conventionally grown cotton, defoliation is induced using toxic chemicals, while with organic cotton defoliation occurs naturally from freezing temperatures or through the use of water management.

It’s nice to see organic cotton growing as an industry, although it’s nowhere near the volume of conventionally raised cotton. Still, we’ll take progress where we can.

Wear Green Cotton.