Through the years, I have found that it’s easier to go to an expert when you want to learn more about any segment of the U.S. cotton industry. Believe it or not, there is always somebody around to answer your question. And when it comes to ginning, I can’t think of a more trusted expert than veteran producer/ginner Richard Kelley of Burlison, Tenn.
If you have read our magazine for any length of time, you have spotted Richard’s name on these pages. He is the kind of person willing to share information with anybody if it will help promote a better understanding of cotton. Maybe that’s why so many industry groups visit the Kelleys’ farm and gin in West Tennessee. He and his wife Charlotte are two of the best goodwill ambassadors you could find for U.S. cotton. Whether it’s an international group of textile mill representatives or some producers from California, the Kelleys are ready to talk to anybody who comes calling.
So, it seemed only natural to make a quick trip to Burlison just west of Covington, Tenn., and check in with Richard. Since our September issue is primarily devoted to ginning, I couldn’t think of a better person to discuss an assortment of topics. And let’s face it. There are enough issues affecting cotton today to write several books. Prices, farm law regulations, technology, competition from polyester and China policy were just some of the things we talked about.
In our cover story, Richard answered a lot of questions in a wide-ranging interview. He was candid as he always is and refuses to be discouraged. Yes, the current cotton prices are quite a bit lower than what we saw several months ago when the range was between 80 and 90 cents a pound. But instead of moaning and groaning, he and his family (Charlotte, sons-in-law Brad and Michael and daughters Kerry and Leslie) are intent on finding ways to cut costs while staying committed to technology in the gin and on the farm.
Anybody who has been around cotton for a long time knows the volatile nature of this commodity. But, for Richard, he’ll evaluate the crop mix, study gin capacity and do what he has done for many years. Find a way to survive and stay in business.
This isn’t the first challenge for Burlison Gin and the Kelley family. And it probably won’t be the last. In Richard’s mind, it boils down to a couple of goals. Stay competitive and make smart decisions.
That’s what you call a formula for success.