In late 2018, I was in Lamesa, Texas, visiting my friend, and Cotton Board member, Matt Farmer, during cotton harvest. A film crew accompanied me because we were capturing some footage of Matt, his operation and his family, to create a video for our Forever Cotton campaign.
During my visit, Matt threw out these great little sayings and nuggets of wisdom. Sometimes they were one-liners like, “The best thing you can put on your crop is your shadow.” Other times they were hilarious jokes at his or (more often) my expense.
One of the things Matt said has stuck with me ever since. “A lot of times out here on the farm you can start to feel like you’re on an island or you’re alone,” he says. “But then, I start to think about all the people who are actually working right alongside me through the Cotton Research and Promotion Program. The research and marketing Cotton Incorporated does on behalf of all U.S. cotton farmers allows us to do things that none of us could ever afford to do on our own.” Matt was right.
I absolutely get it and am starting to feel a bit like I am on an island myself. I miss attending industry meetings and having personal contact with my cotton friends and colleagues, so I can only imagine how producers are feeling. Right now is an especially hard time to be a cotton grower.
Prices are low and input costs are high, yet the global economy still depends on farmers to feed and clothe the world. Producers have to wonder — given all that is going on — if they are in this alone.
Program Endures Since 1966
The good news is the U.S. cotton industry is a tight-knit group and has never backed down during tough times. In fact, the Cotton Research and Promotion Program was designed for challenging periods by a group of cotton producers who took the long view.
The farmers who helped launch the program in 1966 faced similar difficulties — declining market share, low prices and energized competition. They came together to ensure there was a future for cotton.
While the 2020 Cotton Incorporated plan and budget is focused on this goal, it must now pivot and work with a laser focus on the industry’s immediate concerns. Berrye Worsham, president and CEO of Cotton Incorporated, says that with each new challenge we face, the cotton industry builds upon the solid foundation of the program.
“In the face of the severe market disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 50 years of cotton research and promotion that Cotton Incorporated has done will be more important than ever as the industry works to rebuild and retool the downstream supply chain for cotton products,” he says. “Revitalization of the downstream supply chain is critical in order to regain consumer demand and strengthen producer prices.”
Worsham’s perspective isn’t just lip service. The team working on behalf of cotton growers and importers at Cotton Incorporated is proving its ability to quickly adapt across the board. In response to a changing consumer climate, Cotton Incorporated’s Consumer Marketing department launched a new advertising campaign sharing a simple message: Stay home, stay safe and stay comfortable.
The new videos were created at record speed and illustrate how cotton remains “The Fabric Of Our Lives” no matter the circumstances.
Teamwork Keeps Cotton Strong
Many of the companies that import cotton products into the United States and help fund the Research and Promotion Program are shifting gears and working to get personal protective equipment into the hands of our healthcare workers and others. Cotton Incorporated’s non-wovens team has been working with our colleagues in the retail/brand community to find solutions to the serious PPE shortages facing the country.
To better understand consumer habits and attitudes, the Cotton Incorporated Corporate Strategy & Insights department has been conducting surveys on the impact of COVID-19 on their shopping habits. Cotton Incorporated’s Global Supply Chain Marketing department is leveraging this information and sharing it with companies, organizations and associations in the world supply chain to help build cotton demand.
There are no islands in the Cotton Belt and no castaway cotton producers. As we each work to make the most from the cards we have been dealt, please rest assured that the program is right alongside you, intent on increasing the demand for and profitability of cotton.
Gorman is The Cotton Board’s director of communications. Contact her at email@example.com.