The March to the Sea, the Civil War’s most destructive campaign against a civilian population, began in Atlanta on Nov. 15, 1864, and concluded in Savannah one month later. During the campaign, Gen. William T. Sherman and his troops left Atlanta in total ruin before embarking southward to Savannah.
Sherman applied the principles of “scorched earth” in his march throughout Georgia and South Carolina. His troops were ordered to burn crops, kill livestock, consume supplies and destroy civilian infrastructure along their path. It was a responsibility they carried out with great efficiency. As the city still smoldered in flames, Atlantans immediately started rebuilding. The people’s determination to persevere carried forth throughout the South and gave way to them becoming known as “Resurgens.”
The Atlanta City Council shortly thereafter adopted as its official emblem, a medallion that contained the mythical firebird, Phoenix. The emblem illustrated the region’s resolve and commitment to rise from the ashes stronger than ever. This tough determination has carried forth through the generations and is evident today throughout the Southeast cotton industry.
Coincidentally, the first ever organized “International Conference of Cotton Growers and Manufacturers” was held Oct. 7-10, 1907 in Atlanta. This group also elected the Atlanta emblem for resurgence as its conference theme. Ironically, the first president elected to the newly formed consortium was Harvey Jordon, president of the Southern Cotton Growers Association.
I know of the Jordan family both here and in the Mid-South, but have not been able to determine from which state this producer resided. According to our state’s charter, the organization I represent, Southern Cotton Growers, Inc., was not organized until 1964.
This year, the Southeast region planted roughly two million acres of cotton with Georgia accounting for half of this amount. By the grace of God, we look to harvest a bountiful crop. Our modern day high was back in 2001 when acreage exceeded 3.6 million acres. The resurgence of acres in the Southeast during the late 1980s until shortly after the new millennium can be directly attributed without question to two transformations. The undisputed No. 1 factor was the eradication of the boll weevil followed closely by the advent of the marketing loan. You could also include the module builder and transgenic varieties in that list.
Neither boll weevil eradication nor the marketing loan happened by chance. It took the courage and far-reaching in-sight of pioneers such as producer Marshall Grant of Garysburg, N.C. He realized that if the boll weevil was not harnessed, the fate of cotton production in the Southeast and the entire Cotton Belt was in danger. Every cotton producer, support industries and rural community owe him a debt of gratitude.
Speaking of gratitude, where would the industry be without the National Cotton Council? Besides securing funding to advance boll weevil eradication, it has been extremely successful over the years in maintaining a viable safety net that has provided immeasurable support for every family farm operation. Those not paying dues to the Council should do some serious soul searching. This has not been manna falling from the sky.
History has demonstrated that after every major recession, the succeeding year results in record cotton offtake. This optimism is evident in the futures market for 2010 and beyond. With the advent of pricing (ever so slight) for various pieces of equipment and some inputs coupled with our modern infrastructure, the future looks bright for the resurgence of cotton acres throughout the Southeast.
– David Ruppenicker, Dawsonville, Ga.