BY TOMMY HORTON
When our staff began discussing the theme for this issue of Cotton Farming, we knew that the industry was definitely adapting to a new production environment. Grain prices have continued to stay high, and cotton acres are definitely being affected. However, we felt compelled to go in another direction as we looked toward the start of 2013 and a new crop season. Why not revisit a topic that seems very relevant today? Even in the face of stiff competition from grain crops, why not talk about how cotton has weathered storms in the past? What about cotton’s rich heritage? And, most importantly, why do farmers continue to have so much faith in this crop?
That is what compelled us to contact four cotton producers – one from each region – and let them explain why they are sticking with cotton? Beginning on page 11, you’ll find some heartfelt messages from producers Adam Hatley (Arizona), Barry Evans (Texas), David Cochran (Mississippi) and Donny Lassiter (North Carolina). These farmers aren’t blind to what is going on in the commodity markets today. They’ve made adjustments to their crop mixes, but they remain steadfastly committed to cotton and haven’t abandoned it.
I’d say these farmers are representative of many who have planted and harvested cotton for several generations. There is a special bond between a farmer and a cotton crop. As many have so accurately stated, raising a cotton crop is like raising a child. Lots of nurturing is required from start to finish.
After visiting with the four farmers who are featured in this issue, I must say that it gave me a lot of hope about the future of the cotton industry. I am not looking through rose-colored glasses either. We have plenty of legislative and trade issues that can be overwhelming at times. By the time this magazine is published, I’m hopeful that the Farm Bill process will be nearing a conclusion. And we can’t forget about the budget and political environment in Washington these days. Our friends at the National Cotton Council have been doing double-duty trying to protect cotton’s interests through an election year that slowed down everything, or so it seems.
There is a lot of positive energy out there in today’s U.S. cotton industry. In this issue, check out Senior Writer Carroll Smith’s report on how Mississippi producer Jeremy Jack is embracing precision ag and technology in a big way on his farm. You also might be heartened by what young Texas High Plains farmer Justin Foster has accomplished. All he did was produce huge cotton yields in 2011 and 2012, while the state was enduring serious drought conditions. You’ll find his story on page 36.
As you read these stories, it should be obvious that cotton producers haven’t quit or retreated because of higher prices in corn and soybeans. They’re simply taking advantage of the market in the best way they know how. More importantly, they have an optimistic attitude about future price trends and cotton’s ability to weather this storm and begin a serious comeback.
Perhaps nothing reflects cotton’s rich history and tradition better than the cover photo on this issue of Cotton Farming. Famed Delta photographer Emily Clark has shared a beautiful image of the historic Mont Helena home near Rolling Fork, Miss. When visitors drive past this historic site, they are reminded of cotton’s importance to the South Delta region of Mississippi. There is a picturesque and elegant feel to the area.
Much like Mont Helena, cotton’s connection to agriculture and this country remains timeless. It runs deep in many people’s lives – yesterday, today and tomorrow.
If you have comments, send them to: Editor, Cotton Farming Magazine, 1010 June Road, Suite 102, Memphis, Tenn., 38119. Or send e-mail to: email@example.com.