I am lucky. First, I was lucky to be born and raised in West Texas. Thanks to those West Texas roots, I developed a fondness for agriculture and agricultural people that I didn’t fully recognize until I got to college.
After enrolling at Texas Tech University, I quickly came to realize that agriculture was the industry where I felt truly comfortable. It’s clear that plenty of families in West Texas make their living by growing cotton. That fact alone made it easy to choose agriculture as a career.
After college, I was lucky – again – and was offered an opportunity to be a part of the cotton industry on the staff of Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., a regional cotton producer organization that represents growers in a 41-county area surrounding Lubbock, Texas. Joining PCG reinforced what I knew about people in agriculture, but it also made me realize that cotton people are the best that agriculture has to offer.
Cotton farmers, in general, make me want to give my best effort on their behalf. Their generous nature consistently encourages those of us who work on their behalf to never give up until a problem is solved, a breakthrough is made or an obstacle overcome.
Over the last 20 years, I’ve had an opportunity to see a lot of things change in West Texas cotton. Fortunately, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the “can-do” attitude of cotton farmers. This year you see that spirit on full display as High Plains farmers deal with a tough weather situation.
As I write this, we know that 2011’s drought won’t last forever. As fast as things can change on the High Plains, though, growers aren’t yet ready to abandon hope that rain will come in time for them to establish a new crop for harvest. This year, more than ever, strong prices and demand for the high-quality product they produce are big incentives for growers to fight for this crop.
In 20 years, the biggest change I have seen, and one that has been fun to watch, has been the evolution of this area from a quality perspective. Once pigeonholed as a low-quality supplier, now the High Plains cotton farmer consistently produces high-quality, high-value cotton that performs in a wide array of textile applications.
Better quality cotton is a direct result of the High Plains farmer’s willingness to embrace new management techniques and adopt new technology and germplasm. The improvements they have made over the last 20 years are proof that those efforts are paying off.
It is shocking to realize that I joined the staff of Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., way back in 1991. They say that time flies when you are having fun. Well, it must be true because, to me, the last 20 years have passed by in the blink of an eye.
As the Director of Policy Analysis and Research for PCG, I still look forward to the opportunity to be part of the success of PCG’s producer membership and the cotton industry. I enjoy what I do and am excited about the chance to make a difference for the West Texas cotton farmer every day.
Whether it’s figuring out how a new piece of legislation will impact them or adding a risk management tool like the new cottonseed insurance endorsement to the Federal Crop Insurance Program, my job is challenging and rewarding.
Working with the people who make up the cotton industry is a gift that can’t be fully appreciated until it is experienced firsthand. That is especially true on the High Plains, and visitors to our region are usually quick to share my appreciation for the people who make this area the biggest cotton patch in the world.
The Texas High Plains is a “cotton first” production area and, out here, Cotton Incorporated’s signature tagline, “The Fabric of Our Lives,” says a lot more about who we are than the feelings we have for our favorite pair of jeans.
– Shawn Wade, Lubbock, Texas