By Macie Clugston
TFB Communications Intern

Texas Tech University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) broke ground last month on a new cotton classing facility set to go on the university’s campus.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service’s Cotton and Tobacco Program (C&T) established a cooperative agreement with the university to construct, own and operate a cotton classing facility on Tech’s campus in Lubbock.

Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec and USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach signed the agreement on July 1.

This opportunity proves Texas Tech’s position as an agricultural research university, Texas Tech University Chancellor Dr. Tedd Mitchell said.

“Having an opportunity like this, for us, is a seminal moment for Tech for multiple reasons—not only because it allows us to do things academically and through research that are new horizons for us, but it also helps to solidify the position of this university,” Mitchell said.

The current facility in Lubbock is one of the largest in the U.S. and the world, regularly classifying about 20 percent of the U.S. cotton crop, according to USDA.

Ibach said the facility in Lubbock classifies three to four million samples a year. The new facility will be larger and have the capability to classify up to five million samples each year.

The agreement is a positive model of collaboration between the C&T program and a university. It is also the first collaboration between the C&T program and any institution of higher learning.

The partnership will benefit the Lubbock-area cotton industry, the U.S. cotton industry, the university and the surrounding community, Ibach noted.

“The partnership gives us great things we are looking forward to—the enhancement for student education, expanding cotton-related research and providing potential employment for undergraduate and post-graduate students,” Ibach said.

The new cotton classing facility on the Texas Tech campus will enhance the quality of research for experts and students, provide a more centralized location for cotton classification and provide students with more internship and employment opportunities.

The partnership will foster opportunities for Texas Tech and other universities to learn more about cotton fiber measurement and grading operations by having direct access to the facility in a learning and teaching environment.

Agricultural leaders and university officials attended the groundbreaking. U.S. Reps. Jodey Arrington (R-Lubbock) and Mike Conaway (R-Midland) were also in attendance.

USDA hopes to have the facility open in 2021.