The one constant in life is change. Sometimes the more things that we see change, the more they stay the same.
Half a lifetime ago, back in 1980, I landed in the United States and subsequently settled in Texas. As I recall, reflect and reminisce over the past three decades, I marvel at the changes in the world and in our world of cotton, and also at some of the things that don’t change.
In 1980, Jimmy Carter was the president of the United States. Hostages were held in Iran. The first personal computers were only five years old. MS-DOS would not be released and used for another year. Windows would just be glassed holes in the wall, not a computer operating system, for another five years. Both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were still working on their first million dollars and were probably not even close at that time.
That year there was still an “Iron Curtain” across Europe, a “Cold War” between communist U.S.S.R. and much of the Western world. Relationships between the United States and communist countries, including China, were in the process of being “normalized” by world leaders.
Back then I was an ag pilot, a crop duster, finding my way around the cotton fields of the High Plains of Texas using a Texaco road map with spray jobs marked up on plat books. Airplanes, navigation, spray systems and life all seemed less complicated back then.
Music came on 45s and long playing records. We wrote letters on typewriters and made real CCs, carbon copies. Cameras used film. Johnny Carson was the King of Late Night, and new episodes of M.A.S.H and The Muppet Show were running on television.
World cotton production ran around 63 million bales. The U.S. market share, which went mainly to our domestic textile industry, was only 11 million bales. That broke down further to Texas at 3.3 million bales and Plains Cotton Growers Association’s 25-county region at two million bales. The High Plains cotton was mostly short staple, low strength and poor quality.
All that has changed, and then some.
I’m no longer an ag pilot, but during the past 21 years with Plains Cotton Growers I’ve been proud to be part of a Beltwide effort to rid U.S. cotton fields of the pesky cotton boll weevil.
This little critter that found a home in our cotton 120 years ago is no longer taking a hefty bite out of the profitability of our farmers. And, through technologies such as Bt cotton, neither is the bollworm or pink bollworm.
According to USDA’s most recent World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, almost twice as much cotton will be used in spinning mills worldwide this year as was produced back in 1980. Consumption of 121 million bales of cotton is projected for 2010/11 with a full one-third of the total being used in Chinese factories.
In these United States, cotton production has dropped in the West and the Southeast, but Texas and the Texas High Plains have become not only the center of the American map but also the center of cotton growth. 2011 will be a bumper year for the state where close to three times as many bales will be grown compared to three decades ago. And, this cotton is of a quality that exceeds many cotton farmers’ wildest dreams – long staple, high strength, white, top quality fiber.
So many changes. Change is a constant. But what stays the same?
As spinning mills around the globe turn our lint to yarn. As yarn is woven into textiles, which in turn become apparel. As seven billion people that call this world home need to be clothed, it’s the cotton farmer who is providing the sustainable, renewable resource that becomes the fabric of all our lives.
– Roger Haldenby, Lubbock, Texas
Plains Cotton Growers, Inc.