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The Global Cotton Industry: A Look At Its Past With Insight Into Its Future

For many people, the term “globalization” only has significance as a label for business development over the past 25 years or so. In fact, globalization is nothing new and is typified by the cotton business. The rise of textiles, as the first rung of industrialization, the rise of textiles, particularly in 19th century Europe, would not have been possible without the globalized production of cotton in Africa, Asia, the Americas and elsewhere. Cotton, so it seems, was an essential, if unassuming, raw material of not only textiles but world development as well. “Today, cotton is so ubiquitous that it is hard to see it for what it is: one of mankind’s great achievements,” so declares Sven Beckert, a historian at Harvard University and winner of the prestigious Bancroft Prize, in his newly published Empire of Cotton: A Global History. Even so, as Beckert elaborates, “cotton is as familiar as it is unknown," a prescient observation when we consider the current state of the cotton industry.If you’ve ever wondered why the cotton business behaves as it does, I recommend reading this insightful history. Deeply researched, highly analytical and well written, Beckert successfully relates the importance of cotton to the evolution of global capitalism. Read More »

Renewing Old Friendships At NCC Annual Meeting

As I have mentioned in this space before, the U.S. cotton industry has a rich history that is always on full display at the National Cotton Council Annual Meeting each year. That was the case again at the meeting at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis just a few weeks ago. Call me sentimental or nostalgic, but it’s hard to put into words how special it is to meet cotton friends that I haven’t seen in many years. Maybe it was because of the retirements of long-time staffers John Maguire and Mark Lange, but a large number of cotton industry persons showed up at this meeting. It was a particular pleasure to spend time with two persons – Mississippi producer Bruce Brumfield and former NCC executive vice president Earl Sears. When I think about people who have always been willing to share their time, these two are at the top of the list. Brumfield was president of the NCC in 1994, and when I think about how he juggled farm and business responsibilities in Inverness, Miss., it’s hard to believe he could manage his time so well that year.But, like every NCC industry leader... Read More »

Rich History In CCOY Program

It suddenly dawned on me recently that there is a lot of history in the Cotton Consultant of the Year (CCOY) program. That is a natural conclusion to reach when you consider that this program – co-sponsored by Cotton Farming and Sygnenta – has been around since 1981. That means 34 different industry leaders have been honored during this period of time. As I was walking around a crowded room at the CCOY reception at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in San Antonio, that thought was reinforced everywhere I turned. It’s a good thing everybody was wearing a name tag. Otherwise, it would have been difficult identifying so many friends. I recognized the faces, but the name tags made it much easier to connect with each person. Then I realized that I had interviewed and photographed 14 of the winners, and that covers a lot of time. The years fly by way too fast in this business, but no amount of time will make me forget about how each consultant in our industry fulfills an important mission. This is a fraternity that is as strong... Read More »

Web Exclusive

Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect when I attended the recent Deltapine New Product Evaluator (NPE) Summit event in Nashville, Tenn. This has always been an upbeat meeting as producers learn about new cotton varieties that Deltapine will launch in the upcoming year. But something called “low prices” was overshadowing the event, and it was anybody’s guess what producers would have to say about the situation. No matter how well a new variety might perform, it’s hard to deal with prices in the low 60-cent range – especially when those same prices were in the 80 and 85-cent range a year ago. Read More »

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Cotton’s Demise: It Changed

There's been a lot of negative talk lately about cotton: how it's lost its mojo and fallen out favor with consumers. In today’s market, cotton is challenged in significant ways as it has to compete with an oversupply of synthetic fibers, a fast evolving textile supply chain, and changing consumer attitudes toward natural fibers. Of course, cotton always has to contend with weather, insects, weeds, and other growing problems; farmers year in and year out face such production challenges. Even so, there's always the demand of the market that ultimately tells the story of the success or failure of a product. Over the past few years, it seems as though the textile supply chain and consumers prefer synthetics. Cotton has lost market share. I've written several critical commentaries about the cotton business in various publications over the past few months. Much of my concern has centered on the lack of focus on the part of the industry to address inroads made by synthetics. Further, there’s confusion in the market over cotton's message. The frankly fallacious campaign conducted by proponents of "green" production (at the expense of traditional growing practices) has only helped to undermine the benefits of cotton. Read More »

Another Memorable Cotton Harvest

We always hear the phrase that every cotton harvest is somehow different from all the ones that occurred in the past. After observing conditions in many parts of the Belt this year, I’d say that this was definitely a season for the history books – regardless of what yield numbers might reveal. From Texas to the Carolinas, I don’t think I can recall a more varied reaction from producers when asked how harvest had proceeded this year. As we were moving into the first part of October, it was debatable the kind of harvest that Texas would eventually have. The Rio Grande Valley, which has an earlier crop than the rest of the state, was able to deliver cotton for the first time in several years because of good moisture levels throughout most of the growing season. That was some of the best news I heard coming out of Texas. A challenging situation occurred in the High Plains where excessive... Read More »

Another Busy Schedule Of Special Events

As we move into the fall harvest season for cotton, I’d like to review the last three field day events I attended here in the Mid-South. What makes these events so memorable is that they happened on three consecutive days in early September. Initially, I didn’t think I could cover three events occurring in two different states in such a short period of time. But, somehow, everything went well – including the weather. Two of the events were regular field days – the Missouri Annual Field Day at the Delta Center in Portageville and a similar event at the West Tennessee Ag Research Station in Jackson, Tenn. The third event was the official dedication of a new Bayer CropScience research facility at the Memphis Agricenter. Read More »