Have you ever wondered how the world’s cotton leaders really feel about the United States? We know that the global ag arena is competitive, and nobody needs to be reminded of the challenges that have confronted the U.S. cotton industry on issues such as WTO rulings and Brazil’s most recent political battles with its competitor to the north. Having said this, I still continue to be impressed at how our global competitors put those feelings aside and consistently support the American Cotton Shippers Association’s International Cotton Institute conducted each June and July at the University of Memphis.
This school began in 1995 and has quickly gained a reputation for being one of the most informative and beneficial cotton educations offered in the world. Several hundred young students have graduated from the school in the past 17 years. What makes this school so special is that it gives young students a comprehensive look at all facets of the cotton industry – including farm production, marketing, manufacturing and all points in between. Even young people who are already working for an overseas textile manufacturer or an American merchandising company benefit from this experience. For instance, a person who works in international or domestic sales for a cotton merchant in the United States probably hasn’t walked the fields of a farm or taken a tour of Cotton Incorporated’s facilities in Cary, N.C. However, when a student participates in ACSA’s school, every aspect is explored in the cotton supply chain during an intensive eight-week curriculum.
The school is conducted in the Fogelman Executive Center at the University of Memphis, and the accommodations are ideal. So, when I attended the recent welcome reception as the Class of 2012 received its official orientation, I couldn’t help but reminisce back to 1995 when this school first started. Participants who attend and graduate from this program make lifetime friendships, become part of an important alumni group and get to see how progressive the U.S. cotton industry really is.
Some critics might think that our industry is sharing too much information by having such a school. But it’s the exact opposite. The industry’s reputation is showcased to the entire global cotton industry, which just happens to represent nearly 75 percent of the customer base for U.S. cotton.
You can’t put a pricetag on how important it is for students to return home and talk about U.S. cotton’s reliability and quality. In a sense, these young people become goodwill ambassadors for American cotton.
It is the ultimate win-win situation for all parties.