USA

The United States is the third-largest cotton producing country in the world, and its cotton quality is highly prized by the global textile industry. While American cotton farmers use advanced production methods, they still face sustainability challenges like herbicide resistance, soil erosion and regional irrigation water shortages.

In response to demand from our members, retailers, suppliers, and interested farmer groups, we launched a BCI Programme in the United States in 2014. Since then, we have been working closely with the American cotton industry to grow the US Better Cotton supply chain.

Who grows Better Cotton?

In the 2018-19 cotton season, 639 licensed BCI farms in 17 states grew 309,000 tonnes of Better Cotton on 282,000 hectares. Find out more about the successes, challenges and key changes that happened in the 2018-19 cotton season in the Better Cotton Country Snapshots.

In the 2019-20 cotton season, we estimate that close to 300 licensed BCI farms in 17 states will produce 242,000 metric tons (1.11 million bales) of Better Cotton on 212,000 hectares – accounting for 6% of US cotton production.

Major merchants are now actively trading US Better Cotton, and many major North American suppliers and manufacturers are joining BCI in response to strong demand from BCI Retailer and Brand Members. A listing of North American BCI Members can be found here.

Most US farms growing Better Cotton participate as part of an assurance group, in which a BCI Implementing Partner – typically from a cotton cooperative, merchant, gin or grower association – provides farm-level support, gathers data, conducts farm visits and coordinates independent third-party verification. This approach ensures the integrity of the Better Cotton Standard System while accounting for the country’s advanced growing practices and strong regulations. For more information please contact the US office.

Sustainability challenges

Despite many advances over the years, American cotton farmers still face sustainability challenges. In many parts of the US Cotton Belt, farmers are struggling to manage weeds that have developed resistance to common herbicides, making it necessary to use different materials and/or herbicide rotations to mitigate resistance. California, known for its long-staple varieties, has experienced a multi-year drought, making irrigation water both scarce and costly. In other regions, like West Texas, water tables are falling, compelling farmers to invest in more efficient irrigation methods, or transition to less water-intensive crops. Some BCI Farmers are installing drip irrigation, which can reduce irrigation water needs by up to 50%.

BCI’s long-term goals include supporting US farmers in addressing these and other sustainability challenges and improving their performance.

Who are BCI’s Implementing Partners in the US?

BCI’s current Implementing Partners in the United States include Allenberg (Louis Dreyfus), Calcot, Cargill, Indigo, Jess Smith & Sons, Olam, PCCA, Quarterway, StaplCotn and Supima.

US Field Trip

Business case for US producers

BENEFITS OF BEING PART OF BETTER COTTON

  • Meet a global standard that demonstrates your farm’s commitment to safeguard the environment, and the health and well-being of farmers, farm workers and their communities.
  • Join a global effort to protect and improve the long-term viability of the cotton industry.
  • Meet rising brand, retailer and consumer expectations for transparency regarding cotton production practices.

BENEFITS FOR US FARMERS

Meeting a global industry standard for sustainability: The Better Cotton Principles and Criteria are developed and overseen by a multi-stakeholder body comprised of major retailers and brands, farmers, suppliers and civil society organisations. BCI is the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world and in the 2018-19 cotton season Better Cotton was grown by 2.1 million licensed BCI Farmers and accounted for 22% of global cotton production. This coordinated program includes core criteria that all growers must meet to market Better Cotton, as well as improvement indicators that allow growers to benchmark and improve their sustainability performance over time. These real-world benchmarks allow farmers to compare their own operations’ performance – in integrated pest management, soil, water and habitat conservation, for example – to their peers.

The long-term sustainability of the cotton industry: As consumers, retailers and brands demand greater transparency about the sustainability characteristics of what they purchase, participation in BCI can boost cotton’s social and environmental profile. Cotton farmers and their supporting organisations have a vital interest in adopting and promoting sustainable practices to ensure consumer demand for cotton products is not negatively impacted by concerns about how the raw material is produced.

Access to new customers: BCI is supported by some of the strongest brands, retailers and traders in the world: BCI’s membership based grew by 29% in 2019 to 1,842 members. Many of these companies are setting aggressive targets for Better Cotton purchases. Being part of BCI gives cotton farmers access to this growing new market and customers. US cotton growers and suppliers who move quickly to join BCI and grow Better Cotton may gain an initial competitive advantage by being early adopters, and having first access to growing markets for US grown Better Cotton.

Public and investor confidence: Undergoing BCI-licensing demonstrates a farm’s commitment to managing the environmental and social impacts of cotton farming, an increasingly important consideration for bankers and investors which may assist in both capital raising and debt financing. Being BCI-licensed can also enhance the farm’s reputation and help protect against reputational risks.

How to become a US Better Cotton grower

STEP 1: CONTACT US

Reach out to us if you are interested in becoming a licensed grower or an implementing partner. Email: april.kappler@bettercotton.org

If you are qualified, you will be guided through assurance activities during the upcoming growing season.

STEP 2: SUBMIT EARLY SEASON ESTIMATES AND COMPLETE ONLINE SELF-ASSESSMENT

At the beginning of the season, around March, you’ll submit to us your estimated acres and yield. In June you will be emailed the Self-Assessment that asks questions about your farm. Based on the BCI Production Principles & Criteria, these questions relate to crop protection, water stewardship, soil health, biodiversity and land use, fiber quality, decent work, and your farm management systems. With proper preparation, it will take about one hour to complete.

STEP 3: HOST A VERIFICATION VISIT

If required, trained verifiers confirm a farm’s compliance with BCI’s minimum criteria, and performance on improvement criteria.

STEP 4: RECEIVE A BETTER COTTON LICENSE

If your farm meets the minimum requirements, you will receive a provisional license to market your cotton as Better Cotton.

STEP 5: SUBMIT YOUR RESULTS

At the end of the season you are required to submit your final production figures to BCI, with total water, fertilizer and pesticide applications for the season’s cotton crop. Once these results indicators are submitted and approved by BCI, your license is formally approved and you can market the season’s cotton as “Better Cotton”. Individual farm data is never shared, published or reported. BCI combines data at the country level only in our harvest reporting, available on our Reports page.

For more information:
Better Cotton Standard System
Better Cotton Production Principles and Criteria