When cotton producers across the Belt start harvesting this year’s crop, they’ll do so with several thoughts in mind. They will be thankful that they’ve reached the point where they can see the results of their hard work. And, given the current price environment, they continue to look ahead to better days.
Here’s another way to look at the situation. The producer dedicated to this crop will find a way to keep planting cotton – no matter what the price is. He’ll continue to implement a crop mix that allows him to rotate cotton with corn, peanuts and anything else that helps the farm’s soil profile.
It isn’t easy walking away from cotton. Maybe that is why it is so refreshing to run across folks like the Rone family in the Missouri Bootheel. I have met many farmers in this region through the years, and the area is known for the cotton quality it delivers to the market. The Rones – father Lewis and son Justin – are a prime example of that commitment.
I had heard about Lewis and Justin through Missouri Associate Extension cotton specialist Andrea Jones. It intrigued me that the Rones’ farm was located right across the highway from the Fisher Delta Research Center in Portageville, Mo. When I made a recent visit to their office, all of my preconceived thoughts were confirmed.
The Rones are an example of farmers who still have a love for cotton. True, they have a diverse crop mix that also includes, corn, rice and soybeans, but they will never leave cotton. Instead, they continue to be leaders when it comes to implementing technology and planting new varieties. And, yes, they have a round module picker and are glad to have it.
As you’ll see in our cover story, they have a close relationship with the Fisher Delta Research Center and employ one of the most respected consultants in the region – Tim Roberts of Dyersburg, Tenn. Everybody is this group is committed to research and management of the crop.
It is no accident that the Missouri Bootheel has such a good reputation across the Belt. No, it isn’t the largest cotton production area in the country. But, it has a unique environment conducive to producing high-quality cotton. Put another way, these farmers will ride out the current price situation and thrive in the long run.
So, when you’re driving north to St. Louis on I-55 headed to a Cardinal baseball game, take notice of the cotton fields in the Bootheel area. They are some of the best you’ll find anywhere.