Cotton Industry Could Suffer as Lubbock Cotton Research Lab Slated to Close - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

4/7/06

Cotton Industry Could Suffer as Lubbock Cotton Research Lab Slated to Close

The Lubbock economy could be facing a $4 million annual loss under the Bush Administration's proposed 2007 budget. But it's not just Lubbock that would suffer.

The monetary loss would come from the proposed closing of the USDA Cotton Ginning Laboratory here in Lubbock. But cotton producers say closing the research lab would be detrimental to the cotton industry in Texas and Lubbock.

"It's important to the industry and it's also important to the economy of Lubbock and West Texas," Steve Verett, Lubbock Chamber of Commerce chairman said.

The announcement of the proposed research lab closure came during a Lubbock Chamber of Commerce news conference Friday. The Lubbock lab is one of only three research labs of its kind in the world and because of that the chamber, along with cotton industry representatives say the move would undermine important cotton harvesting and processing research worldwide.

"The research that has been conducted in the past at this laboratory has had a massive economic impact on decreasing the cost of ginning, and increasing the efficiency to the tune of billions of dollars per year as a result of the science that's been developed," Dan Upchurch, director of Lubbock's USDA Research Laboratory, said.

"It's very important. In what you're wearing, your khakis and your shirts. That's been improved through the ginning process," Rickey Bearden, who is the president of Plains Cotton Growers.

"I don't want to be an alarmists in the sense of saying the whole industry would crumble, but the bottom line is it would have a major impact in further development of technology to support the ginning industry," Upchurch said.

Upchurch says, it's impossible to put an exact dollar amount on the impact this would have on the cotton economy, but he says eliminating research programs would remove the potential for future developments in the ginning industry.

There's also concern that jobs in Lubbock would be eliminated.

A lab in New Mexico would also be closed, leaving the only ginning research lab in the world in Mississippi.

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