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A Pipeline To Prosperity


By Mark Lange
National Cotton Council

The National Cotton Council is working to ensure that USDA’s Cotton Production and Processing Research Unit in Lubbock is fully funded in 2009.

What is the situation?

The Bush Administration’s proposed FY09 budget terminates funding for this Agricultural Research Service facility – one which helps our industry prosper. The restoration of $1,569,840 base funding will enable continued research on stripper-harvested production systems on the Texas High Plains, the largest contiguous U.S. cotton production region. This lab also provides invaluable support for USDA’s Agricultural Air Quality Task Force on critical air quality issues. Among other Cotton Belt research efforts conducted there are the development of: 1) handling and cleaning systems for strippers to improve cleanliness and seed cotton quality, 2) non-contact gin moisture sensors for continuous evaluation of seed cotton moisture, 3) improved lint/seed separation techniques to improve fiber quality and turnout and 4) new methods to detect and remove contaminants from seed cotton and lint.

How has the NCC helped prevent the lab’s closure?

As in 2006 when this facility faced a funding cut, the NCC coordinated with the National Cotton Ginners Association (NCGA), Texas cotton organizations and the Texas Congressional delegation on a media briefing. Last month, NCGA President Chris Breedlove told journalists that the Lubbock gin lab is the only facility in the world involved in researching cotton quality issues related to mechanical stripper harvesting and to ginning the Southwest region’s stripper-harvested cottons. He also noted the lab’s current work on developing a scientific-based emissions factor for harvesting equipment, which is critically important as Cotton Belt states rewrite their State Implementation Plans to comply with new emission factors.

More recently, the NCC outlined recommendations and requests for FY09 appropriations in a letter to Rep. DeLauro (D-Conn.), who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Related Agencies, and to Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), who chairs the Senate’s Ag Appropriations subcommittee. The appropriations committees were asked to reject the Administration’s proposed funding termination for both the Lubbock gin lab and the USDA/ARS Kika de la Garza Subtropical Agricultural Research Center at Weslaco, Texas. Numerous letters urging funding continuation also were sent by Texas Congressional delegation members at NCC’s and Texas cotton organizations’ request.

Why is the Weslaco facility important?

Among its many accomplishments is the development of: 1) short-season cotton varieties that minimize pesticide use and increase yields, 2) a biological control of the silverleaf whitefly and 3) minimum tillage methods for conservation of South Texas’ sandy soils. The Center currently is conducting valuable work on: 1) biological control of pests and weeds that affect that area’s agriculture, including cotton, 2) aerial and satellite remote sensing systems to detect invasive weeds and emerging pests, and 3) insect migration crucial to effective completion of boll weevil and pink bollworm eradication. This facility will play a major role in post boll weevil eradication activities.

Mark Lange is president and chief executive officer for the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming page.

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