SPECIAL REPORT -
However, instead of retreating, ginners in this region are trying to take a proactive attitude toward the future, while meeting all of these new problems head-on.
That was the attitude showcased at the organization’s recent summer meeting in Biloxi, Miss.
“We needed this kind of meeting,” says Tim Price, SCGA executive vice president. “Our folks wanted to candidly address these issues, and I think it shows how Mid-South agriculture is adapting to a new environment. It also shows how resilient the cotton industry is in this region.”
More than 200 ginners attended the two-day meeting at the Beau Rivage Hotel in Biloxi.
The meeting also showcased a new feature for this event – a listening session with newly-elected Mississippi Rep. Travis Childers. The congressman took several questions from the SCGA members in an effort to learn more about problems confronting Mid-South ginners.
Price says the dialogue with Childers was a win-win situation for all parties. It gave Childers a chance to learn more about the cotton industry, and it offered ginners an opportunity to tell the congressman about key issues – such as fewer cotton acres, rising costs and stringent regulations affecting a gin operation.
“This was a first for our group,” says Price. “It created some good dialogue with Congressman Childers, and I think all of us benefitted from it.”
Price acknowledges that Mid-South ginners are dealing with serious issues that are affecting their very survival in some cases. However, he believes the environment also is helping cotton ginners evaluate other facets of their operations, such as the value of seed and motes.
“The 800-pound gorilla for farmers is the cost of inputs,” Price says. “This is an issue that affects everybody, and it has a trickle-down effect in the supply chain. We simply have to challenge ourselves on how we can deal with it.”
Childers, who was initially introduced to Mid-South cotton leaders at the Delta Council annual meeting in May at Cleveland, Miss., sounded optimistic about the cotton industry’s ability to make a comeback and preserve its infrastructure.
“I see better days ahead for cotton,” he said. “I’ve learned that cotton families are not made of lightweight material. They’ve dealt with storms before, and they will survive.”
Ginners Tell Their Stories
Childers spent most of his time listening to ginners’ concerns, which mostly dealt with shrinking cotton acreage and high fuel costs.
However, he did remind the audience that he enthusiastically voted to override President Bush’s veto of the Farm Bill. He also reiterated his commitment to making sure that the new farm law is properly implemented by the USDA.
Childers took a step last month to make energy policy a major priority for his district in northern Mississippi. He was an original co-sponsor of legislation introduced in the House to increase U.S. land for oil drilling.
The bill would lift the offshore drilling ban, open the eastern Gulf of Mexico to gas and oil production and release 70 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Thus far, 115 Democrats and Republicans have sponsored the bill.
Other presentations during the SCGA’s general session included remarks from National Cotton Council senior vice president John Maguire, Cotton Incorporated vice president Mike Watson, Texas cottonseed market specialist Austin Rose, Georgia ag labor specialist Ann Margaret Pointer and Louisiana State University ag researcher Matt Fannin.