The leaders guiding today’s program and investing checkoff dollars “are forward-thinking individuals, who are anticipating upcoming challenges and opportunities for our industry.”

As an example of recent challenges, he cites the performance apparel company, Under Armour, which had dubbed “cotton as the enemy,” but when they introduced a new line of Charged-Cotton apparel based on research by Cotton Incorporated, “consumers flocked to their products and they posted amazing revenue gains. Thanks to Cotton Incorporated, cotton is now a major player in the performance apparel market.”

On another front, last November, Gillon says, the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, “started a firestorm when they opposed what they dubbed ‘Obama’s Christmas tree tax.’

“When it was pointed out that there was no tax — just an effort by Christmas tree growers to compete with imported, artificial trees through a new research and promotion program — the attack spread to all other checkoff programs, with the argument that government/private partnerships don’t work and should never be supported.

“Within two weeks a senator from South Carolina, which produces a significant amount of cotton, introduced an amendment to eliminate all research and promotion programs — and the cotton program was first on the list.”

It was “sad,” Gillon says, that what cotton industry leaders worked so hard to construct could “so quickly and foolishly be thrown on the trash heap in the name of political expediency.

“I was taught not to throw out the baby with the bath water, and I’m concerned when politicians argue forcefully to overnight throw away strong, successful programs like the Cotton Research and Promotion Program, which is a model of effectiveness.”

The program “has given back economic returns many times over” from the dollars invested, Gillon says.

“I encourage everyone in the industry to remain sensitive to the vision that led to the creation of this and other checkoff programs, and to remain involved in your local cotton organizations so you can take advantage of your ownership of this program and help to steer the course for cotton.

“We should never forget what it took to get us here. We should be diligent and honest about the challenges we face, and we should continue to work collectively and cooperatively to secure our industry’s future.”