From The Ground Up

By Mark Lange
NCC President/CEO

The Policy Education Program (PEP) is now in its 15th year of giving U.S. cotton producers the opportunity to learn more about the National Cotton Council.

How is the PEP carried out?

The NCC’s Member Services plays a strong role in identifying and selecting cotton producers who have demonstrated a desire to become more active NCC members. Syngenta supports the program through annual grants to The Cotton Foundation. Since 1999, the PEP has enabled up to four producers from each major Cotton Belt region to attend the NCC’s annual meeting where they are informed about trade associations’ functions including, of course, receiving an orientation to the NCC, as the U.S. cotton industry’s central organization. They learn about the NCC’s policy development process, market development activities and its management of environmental and other issues that threaten to undermine U.S. cotton’s competitiveness. PEP’s participants, for example, have been given a unique opportunity to observe NCC’s development and industry position on federal farm policy in advance of this year’s Congressional farm bill debate.

PEP participants also travel to Syngenta’s headquarters in Greensboro, N.C., for extensive communications training. This is a key step in the NCC’s overall efforts to identify, train and maintain a capable cadre of industry spokespersons. The PEP helps its participants be prepared and have confidence in communicating the industry’s message, whether it’s with a local television reporter or a Member of Congress.

What about this year’s PEP?

This year’s 12 PEP participants attended the NCC’s 2013 Annual Meeting where they observed the U.S. cotton industry’s seven segments come together to formulate NCC policy, which guides the organization’s efforts throughout the remainder of the year. On July 15-19, the group will travel to Greensboro, N.C., and Washington, D.C. While in Greensboro, they will participate in a series of meetings with Syngenta’s management team, tour their research facilities and get training in public speaking and interacting with the news media. In Washington, the group will visit with House and Senate agriculture committees’ staff, meet with USDA officials and get briefed by NCC Washington operations staff.

More than 180 NCC producer members have participated in PEP. As anticipated, the PEP has generated enthusiastic producer participation in the NCC during the past 15 years. Specifically, many PEP participants have become more active as NCC delegates and members of various NCC task forces and committees. Some have been elected to leadership positions. This has boosted our efforts in bringing together industry delegates from 17 cotton-producing states to work out common problems and develop programs of mutual benefit.

Mark Lange is the 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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