Saturday, April 13, 2024

The P.I.E. Tour

A Slice Of Perspective To Be Gained


Upon its inception in 1989, P.I.E. — otherwise known as the Producer Information Exchange — has been instrumental in creating avenues for producers to experience regions different from their own. 

The P.I.E. tour is a special education project of the Cotton Foundation, sponsored by BASF and managed by the National Cotton Council.

Dustin Black, a BASF research development specialist, updates Southwest and West P.I.E. producer participants on the company’s trait development trials at its research facility in Pikeville, North Carolina.

In this program, a grower from Texas could be immersed in the same growing conditions as a grower from North Carolina. In the 2022 Southeast P.I.E. tour, that is exactly what happened — and vice versa with the 2022 Southwest P.I.E. tour. 

Bryan Perry, US Head of Seeds & Traits at BASF, spoke on the importance of BASF’s partnership with the tours.

“I was able to share with them [producers] about the company and its direction, but then I was able to turn it back to them and get their feedback,” he said.

“BASF reinvests 11% of every dollar into research and development for ag, and I think if you’re a producer, you want to know what people are spending that money on. Being able to see firsthand what’s happening with that investment can be really beneficial.”

Southeast P.I.E. tour members from the Southwest region were made up of producers from California to Texas. They saw multiple farms throughout North Carolina, BASF’s headquarters outside of Raleigh and other research facilities along the way. 

Producers from the Southeast and Mid-South saw cotton and other agricultural operations in Texas’ High Plains and Lower Rio Grande Valley regions.

Landon Mires, a producer out of O’Donnell, Texas, originally heard about the program from his father and then suggested he would do the program again at the drop of a hat. He said it was interesting to see what other regions grow alongside their cotton, such as the vegetables and tobacco in North Carolina.

On the other side, Southwest P.I.E. tour members consisted of producers from Virginia to Mississippi. They toured BASF’s Seed Innovations Center in Lubbock, Texas, and they wrapped up their time of learning and engaging in the Lower Rio Grande Valley with other facilities and farms.

Bo Leatherman, a Mississippi farm manager for Brad Cobb Farms in Tunica County who participated in this year’s Southeast P.I.E. tour, had one piece of advice when it came to anyone who may be interested in participating in the program: “Go.”

He said it was a unique opportunity to understand what other areas are doing as far as techniques, to see what might work on his own farm and to know how fortunate they are when it comes to resources other regions may lack — such as water.

“We try to mix it up,” said John Gibson, Vice President of Member Services at National Cotton Council. “We want to expose them [the producers] to a variety of experiences so they can take what they learn back with them to the farm.”

More than 1,200 U.S. cotton producers have participated in the program since its 1989 launch. The program exchanges much more than just simple information — it also exchanges regions and new perspectives, making it invaluable to anyone who joins. 

Producers interested in getting involved with the P.I.E. tours should contact their local National Cotton Council Member Services representative or local cotton producer association representative.

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