As we prepare for 2012 and all the hopes and expectations that accompany the month of January, I think it’s safe to say that this will be one of the most important years ever for the cotton industry and all of agriculture. It seems like we regularly make that kind of statement. In 2010, we were talking about the cautious optimism for cotton’s prospects along with increased acreage and better prices. Last year we discussed a bright outlook as the price surge really kicked into high gear.
Now we embark on a journey through 2012 and are confronted with the double-barreled scenario of national elections and a Farm Bill. This isn’t the first time these two events have occurred simultaneously. Even so, the environment in today’s political scene feels different. So many things are at stake. After the failure of the Super Committee to deal with debt reduction, the fast-track Farm Bill suddenly has moved back to its traditional position on the congressional calendar where the House and Senate Ag Committees will debate the legislation for several months.
As for the elections, it’s good that the cotton industry has friends in Congress on both sides of the aisle. Despite that fact, the potential impact on ag policy could be profound, depending on who is elected. That’s why the cotton industry needs to be united as it works with the National Cotton Council in forging relationships with whomever is elected in November.
In keeping with this magazine’s tradition, we wanted to preview what might lie ahead for the industry. And the best way to gauge the future is to seek out leaders who can share relevant information and perspective.
Beginning on page 12 and concluding on page 25, you’ll find four first-person reports from a cross-section of ag leaders. Each person has a different view of the issues confronting agriculture, and that is what makes their reports so informative. On consecutive pages, you’ll hear from Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), a member of the House Agriculture Committee and a true friend of the cotton industry. He offers a broad overview of the importance of farmers making their voices heard on ag policy and being proactive in an election year.
We also thought it would be important to hear from National Cotton Council economist Gary Adams, who has analyzed what the new Farm Bill might look like in the current “budget-cutting environment.” And how could any discussion be complete without hearing from two cotton producers who have distinguished themselves as industry leaders? We think Texas producer Ronnie Hopper and Georgia producer Jimmy Webb have offered some insightful thoughts in their two reports.
When you read these four stories, you’ll easily see the depth of knowledge and experience that is leading the cotton industry. This isn’t the first Farm Bill or crucial election the industry has encountered, and it won’t be the last. But we can take comfort in the fact that cotton is well represented as we inch closer to these important events in 2012.
And, as any objective observer can attest, it is agriculture that has performed the best during this difficult economy in the past two years. You might even say that our industry has been the one shining economic story since the recession began in 2008. Our leaders have a strong story to tell the public, and, for that reason, we should look to the future with confidence.
A year from now, I predict that we’ll look back on 2012 with a lot of pride. The challenges were there, and a united cotton industry met them head-on.
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