The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is a cotton production assessment system established by U.S. cotton producers and industry organizations to provide a mechanism by which U.S. cotton producers can assess and verify their current production practices and measure their progress toward long-term sustainability goals. The Trust Protocol will be managed and implemented by a single member LLC governed by producers, brands/retailers, conservation and wildlife civil societies, ginners, merchants, cooperatives, textile manufacturers, cottonseed crushers/handlers, and cotton warehouses.
The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is being created to enable U.S. cotton producers and industry organizations to demonstrate their commitment to more sustainable cotton production and their progress toward long-term environmental improvement, thereby meeting the sustainability goals of downstream users of U.S. cotton.
The industry recognized that for U.S. cotton to be the supplier of choice for many global brands and retailers, as well as meet the needs of the consumers, it needed to verify existing production systems and practices and establish long-term environmental goals. This program is designed to meet those needs, while showcasing U.S. cotton’s story of continuous improvement. It also charts a path to meet the industry’s 2025 sustainability goals.
The Trust Protocol has adopted the United Nations’ definition of sustainability, as follows:
To meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
No. The goal is for the entire U.S. cotton production system to be more sustainable tomorrow than it is today. Enrollment allows the Trust Protocol to evaluate existing producer practices and ensure the U.S. industry moves toward more sustainable practices over time. Continuous improvement is the journey as sustainability is a process that will change as new technology and information become available.
Brands, retailers and users of cotton are establishing sustainability goals that are both short-term and long-term. There are 38 major Brands/Retailers who have pledged to achieve 100% sustainable cotton by 2025 or sooner. This number will grow.
Consumers are demanding more information about the products they buy. Wall Street makes investment decisions based on environmental and social governance audits from companies, and their supply chains must comply or be left behind. It is essential that U.S. cotton provide high-quality, trusted data to meet the supply chain’s needs.
Aggregated data from the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol will provide downstream users of cotton with metrics for meeting their sustainable development goals. Data from the Data Tools utilized in the Trust Protocol will give producers the information that can increase their resource efficiency, lower their cost of production, support their economic sustainability and ensure downstream customers that U.S. cotton is sustainably produced.
It takes a producer approximately 30 to 45 minutes to complete the self-assessment questionnaire.
Another component of enrollment in the Protocol is the use of a Data Tool. Some producers use an approved Data Tool as part of their ongoing management of their farming operation. However, for those that do not currently use a data tool, it will take about 45 minutes to an hour to complete the Data Tool portion of enrollment.
Approximately 5-10% of participating producers will be selected for independent verification. For those producers, an additional day of their time will be required, but verification visits will be scheduled during the winter months.
The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol needs that information in order to validate the farming operation. The Tax ID number will be kept confidential.
An aggregator will contact the producer to verify the self-assessment and use of the data tool. Verification documents can be uploaded to the Protocol Dashboard and/or emailed to the aggregator. Electronic validation such as FaceTime, videos, and/or pictures will be allowed to the greatest extent possible. The use of technology will expedite the verification process, saving time both for the producer and the aggregator.
The Protocol will contact the producer and the aggregator to notify them that the grower has been selected for a Third-Party verification to validate the self-assessment responses and use of a data tool. Verification documents can be uploaded to the Protocol Dashboard. FaceTime, videos, and/or pictures will be allowed. These practices will expedite the process and save time both for the producer and the aggregator. Additionally, the Third-Party verifier may need to visit the farm for additional information. These visits will occur after the harvest.
As a producer completes the questionnaire, the answers should reflect management practices for their entire farming operation. If your farming operation has both irrigated and no-irrigated practices, then the assessment should reflect the predominant production practice.
“Data Tool” refers to the farm-level software that a producer may use to assist in providing field-level data detailing specific production practices carried out on a specific percentage of their farming operation. This data will be used to populate the Field to Market FieldPrint Platform, as explained below.
While, it is not necessary to enroll the farming operation with any specific automatic farm input data collection system, it is necessary for a Protocol producer to utilize a Data Tool that can be compatible with the Field to Market FieldPrint Calculator. Some data software tools such as MyFarms, Agrible, and Land Db can be used to generate an official qualified Field to Market FieldPrint. The Field to Market FieldPrint, or equivalent data tool, is required for enrollment, but none are automatic. It is anticipated that many farmers will choose to complete a questionnaire provided by the Seam which will be used to generate the Field to Market FieldPrint.
For a producer enrolling in the pilot phase of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, 2019 data should be used. That is the information that will be checked in the event the producer is selected for a Second or Third-Party verification.
For the pilot phase, a FieldPrint Express will need to be completed by the producer on the Protocol’s Dashboard. The producer will need to answer some field level questions (both quantitative and qualitative). The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol staff will then help enroll the producer into the FieldPrint Calculator. By the Spring of 2020, this process will be streamlined.
This process takes approximately 45-60 minutes to complete.
The FieldPrint Calculator is the means by which producers can generate the environmental footprint for their fields. Quantitative measurements of key indicators of land use, soil loss, soil conditioning, greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, water efficiency, runoff water quality, and biodiversity will help identify strengths and opportunities. The collection of these data to be aggregated for all participating producers is a central component of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.
There is no guarantee of a premium. The goal of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is to increase the recognition of U.S. cotton as being responsibly produced and ensure that U.S. cotton does not lose market access due to a perceived lack of sustainability. However, by closely monitoring production practices and inputs, the program could be beneficial in lowering input costs. It also is true that the Trust Protocol may assist U.S. cotton in maintaining its preferential place in the world market. Without it, we may lose that preferential position.
Results of your self-assessment and FieldPrint are aggregated with all other participating producers. Data supplied to downstream users will be provided in an aggregate manner for all participating producers. Official verifiers who have been accredited by the offices of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol will see data only to verify its accuracy. Individual producer’s data will not be shared otherwise.
No, individual data will be provided without a request being initiated by the farmer. Farmers have control of their individual data.