Cleaner Cotton™ is the registered trademark for cotton fiber grown in SCP's program. An alternative to more expensive and difficult to produce organic, it is grown according to a set of guidelines provided by SCP regarding sustainable growing practices that includes disallowing the most toxic chemicals used in California cotton production. Cleaner Cotton™ also utilizes biological farming methods as a basis for growing cotton more sustainably.
Presentations on Cleaner Cotton™ practices, fiber and fabrics to brands are conducted by SCP, but sold through traditional cotton marketing channels, with a suggested 10-15 cent per pound premium that goes directly to the grower.
SCP's farm program brings together a community of family farmers growing cotton in California's Fresno, Madera and Merced counties. With SCP's support and guidance from experts at UC IPM and UC Cooperative Extension, these growers changed the way they farm by implementing biologically based practices, which protect the land, air and water resources in the region. The fiber that these farmers produce as part of SCP's program is called Cleaner Cotton™. SCP's farm program was generously supported for many years by the clean water funding through the California State Water Resources Control Board.
SCP started as an organic cotton organization in 1996. SCP used organic as a tool to transition farmers away from chemically based farming practices and to provide a higher income from the burgeoning sustainable fashion market. (see more on the history of SCP here in ABOUT US).
In the late nineteen nineties, NAFTA and China's inclusion in World Trade Organization (WTO) drove US textile production overseas. Organic cotton sourcing also moved overseas to take advantage of lower costs. The cost to grow organic cotton in California is higher than brands are willing to pay. In organic trials that SCP farmers have run, organic cotton fields yielded almost 30% less fiber than conventional fields. To be specific, Cleaner Cotton™, on average, yields more than 1,250 pounds of cotton per acre compared to average yields of 925 pounds in organic production. Lacking a secure market or a pre planting commitment from brands for their fiber, farmers are unable to risk the lower fiber yields and corresponding reduction in income.
The results of SCP's farming practices are profound
- A Cleaner Cotton™ grower:
- Focuses on biologically based practices to manage pests.
- Avoids the most toxic chemicals used in cotton production in California.
- Can reduce chemical use from 50-73% over conventionally farmed cotton farmers in the same region (Fresno, Merced and Madera counties).
Because Cleaner Cotton™ maintains fiber yields it presents less economic risk to the grower and is therefore a more effective tool than organic for converting farmers and acres to biological practices. Overall, this scalability can achieve greater reduction in chemicals than the niche of organic cotton. In California, organic cotton generally represents less than 100 acres while Cleaner Cotton™ can be scaled up to meet high demand of millions of pounds of cotton. The higher fiber yield per acre achieved by Cleaner Cotton™ has an additional bonus besides economic viability; it also means less water is required per pound of Cleaner Cotton™ harvested vs. organic.
- Is high quality fiber, available in both Pima (extra long staple length) and Acala (long staple length) varieties.
- Utilizes biological farming practices. Click here for more information.
- Eliminates the most toxic chemicals used in conventional cotton cultivation in California, reducing toxicity in our air, soil and watersheds.
- Receives a modest premium, paid directly to the farmer to help support management of these practices.
- Is tracked from field to spinner, using the USDA Permanent Bale Identification barcode and data. Click here for more information.
- Cleaner Cotton™ is local, cleaner and links manufacturers, brands and the public, directly with the farmers.
Growers who enroll with SCP implement a number of practices that help to reduce the impacts of cotton farming on their region. Below is an example of the types of practices utilized by farmers producing Cleaner Cotton™.
What a conventional farmer would typically do and what a cleaner cotton farmer would do instead:
|Conventional Practice||SCP Cleaner Cotton™ Farming Practice|
|Broad spectrum/higher toxicity chemicals||No spraying or less toxic reduced risk products, pest targeted options|
|Yearly tillage and nitrogen based fertilizer||Reduced tillage and use of compost for some fertilizer|
|Spraying by the calendar||Use of field monitoring reports to note damaging pest buildup and spraying only when economically damaging|
|Weed control sprays on field margins||Use of annual hedgerows on field margins|
|Spraying out natural enemies with broad spectrum chemicals||Use of annual hedgerows, reduced spraying and using reduced risk products help retain and build populations of natural enemies|
|Chemical spraying as a pest protection precaution||Using UC IPM thresholds for deciding if spray is needed|
|Neighboring alfalfa cut without strips||Encouraging neighbors with alfalfa next to cotton to strip cut keeping lygus pest on alfalfa and not cotton|