According to the 2007 Ag Census, the average age of principle operators on U.S. farms is 57.1 years. While that may not seem old to many people, it’s only eight years away from what many consider to be retirement age, so it poses an unnerving scenario for agricultural vendors/suppliers who rely on farming operations to purchase their products.
Will family farms across the United States fold if family members do not take over the operation? As the economic environment of farming continues to be fraught with hurdles ranging from higher input costs to mediocre returns, many operators are encouraging their children to pursue more stable and less stressful professions.
“We are very aware of this scenario, so we decided to take the Cotton Board’s very successful ‘Producer Tour Program’ and dedicate a tour of Cotton Incorporated’s World Headquarters to the new generation of U.S. cotton farmers,” says Monty Bain, South-eastern Regional Communications Manager for the Cotton Board.
The tour, which was conducted last month, was created with the intent of showcasing the cotton-market-building research and promotion activities these young producers have behind them and at their disposal as they forge ahead with their own farming careers.
The Cotton Board’s tour was aptly named “The Young Guns Tour.”
“We’ve had several young producers on some of our past tours, but this was the first tour where we made it our priority to specifically invite young, up-and-coming cotton producers,” says Bobby Skeen, Mid-South Regional Communications Manager for the Cotton Board.
The average age of the producers attending the tour was 32.
Cotton Incorporated’s President and CEO, J. Berrye Worsham, fully recognized the importance of this effort and said, “Tours of our facility are an eye-opening experience for any first-time visitor. Our staff is passionate about what it does, and that passion is very evident to any visitor. We attempt to illustrate how our research and promotion efforts positively influence cotton’s entire supply chain from the field to retail shelves.”
The Young Guns not only got to see the research facility their assessment dollars help support but they also visited the second largest spinning mill in the country and saw bales of U.S. cotton being opened, processed and turned into yarn.
Former tour participant Ben Cox, a Georgia cotton producer, participated in a 2009 Cotton Board tour.
“I really didn’t know what to expect once I agreed to attend, but it’s very reassuring to know we have industry organizations like Cotton Incorporated and the Cotton Board working to create opportunities and build consumer demand for our cotton,” he says.
“I encourage anyone who has never been on a tour to just set aside the time and do it. It will definitely broaden your perspective about the global business of cotton and make you proud to be a U.S. cotton producer.”
If you are interested in finding out more information about the Cotton Board’s Producer Tour Program, visit www.Cottonboard.org and click on the “Producers” tab. The Cotton Board Producer Tour Program is annually sponsored by Monsanto, Syngenta and John Deere.
The Cotton Board, which administers the Cotton Research and Promotion Program conducted by Cotton Incorporated, contributed information for this article.
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