For a quarter of a century, the National Cotton Council’s Producer Information Exchange (P.I.E.) program has provided its U.S. cotton producer participants a unique way to benefit from new technology and innovative farming methods.
How is the P.I.E. program carried out?
The NCC’s Member Services staff, in conjunction with cotton producer interest organizations, conducts the P.I.E program with the support from a grant to The Cotton Foundation from Bayer CropScience. Priority is given to selecting participants who have demonstrated a desire to improve their farming operations. Four tours are conducted during the growing seasons in each of the Cotton Belt’s four production regions: the Southeast, the Mid-South, the Southwest and the Far West. A group of between eight and 12 producers from one region will travel to another region to observe cotton production and other important agricultural-related operations.
This season, Mid-South producers will see operations in Georgia and Ala-bama on June 23-28; Southeast producers will travel to Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi on July 7-12; Southwest producers will visit California on July 21-25; and Far West producers will tour Texas on Aug. 4-9.
What are P.I.E.’s benefits?
After this season, the P.I.E. program will have exposed more than 1,000 U.S. cotton producers to innovative production practices in regions different from their own. Observing how their peers have adapted existing and new technology to specific farming operations along with seeing what works and doesn’t work helps participants improve their on-farm efficiency. That leads to the potential for increased yields and fiber quality as well as overall profitability. Participants gain new perspectives in land preparation, variety selection, planting, tillage, fertilization, pest control, irrigation, harvesting and other fundamental production practices. Frequently, they get to see how their peers are managing crop input costs, how they have implemented conservation systems and how they are combatting drought, flooding or other weather challenges.
Along with face-to-face interaction with the host producers, the P.I.E. provides participants with other “iron sharpening iron” opportunities – the exchanging of ideas and information with the producers from their own region who they travel with during the week. In addition, all P.I.E. alumni are encouraged to take advantage of the wealth of information generated at the annual NCC-coordinated Beltwide Cotton Conferences as a way to keep pace with the introduction of new technology and how it is adopted and to continue learning about successful farming practices and systems.
The program’s value in improving U.S. cotton production is evident. P.I.E. alumni, including several current NCC leaders, have put into practice what they have learned. For example, after visiting Texas, Mid-South producers have implemented new irrigation practices to improve efficiency and water conservation. Growers in the Southeast region have adopted new weed resistance strategies after visiting the Mid-South. An indirect P.I.E. benefit is that the fellowship among participants and hosts across the Cotton Belt over these 25 years has helped the NCC’s industry consensus-building, which has helped in obtaining unity on the industry’s policies and programs and maintaining a solid base of producer member support.
Mark Lange is the president and chief executive officer for the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming page.