Cotton U relaunched with new partnership, location

The fourth annual Cotton U event took place on March 28 in Lubbock, Texas. High Plains Journal partnered with Plains Cotton Growers Inc. to hold both Cotton U and the PCG Annual Meeting at the Overton Hotel. Over 260 attendees dotted the banquet hall as the event began.

The annual meeting kicked off in the morning with a report from Martin Stoerner, PCG president who gave an overview of difficult years such as 2011, 2020 and 2022, but also new research, advocacy and positive weather predictions on the horizon.

“What I find most interesting about these tough years is that we had to overcome the droughts and experiences those years,” he said. “Farmers are some of the most resilient people around, but part of that resiliency resides with their adaptable nature. When something doesn’t work or happens outside of our control, we keep going.”

Stoerner said the Texas Tech University Center for Competitiveness estimated the Texas High Plains cotton industry will lose over $2 billion before insurance and indemnities for 2022. Additionally, with a 74% abandonment rate in the area, gins were projected to lose over $230 million.

“The outcome of this past crop is sobering and tells us just how much we need our national, state and regional industry organizations,” Stoerner said.

He also highlighted PCG’s advocacy work, such as securing $3.7 million for the 2022 end-of-year omnibus spending package, that extended the Emergency Relief Program for the 2022 crop year; support of increasing the federal boll weevil eradication program funding to $15.95 million; allotting $4 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Marketing System Cotton and Tobacco Program and continuing to encourage the National Agricultural Statistic Service to reinstate the ag level district estimates both in season and end of season in order to track potential crop size throughout harvest, which helps all sectors of the cotton industry.

Stoerner said PCG is continuing to advocate for an increase in baseline funding for the 2023 farm bill. In terms of research, he said the Plains Cotton Growers Improvement Program, operated through PCG, helps support activities through the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Cotton Breeding Program.

“In 2022, the program evaluated 57 commercial varieties in four locations, 30 near commercial varieties, 52 varieties under root knot nematode pressure, 53 varieties under verticillium wilt pressure and 39 varieties with response to bacterial blight,” Stoerner said. “We are also excited to announce that this year, the cotton breeding program will register a new, high-yielding strain with excellent fiber quality and a new strain showing the first significant improvement in verticillium wilt resistance in 20 years.”

He wrapped up his speech with hopefulness that the dry weather patterns of late would change and moisture would soon be in the forecast.

Additional speakers and panels

Tyne Morgan, host of U.S. Farm Report, took the stage for an ag industry update and took over emcee responsibilities for the rest of the day. After Morgan’s industry report, Mark Messura, senior vice president of global supply chain marketing at Cotton Incorporated, presented a session on the current state of cotton marketing and future marketing opportunities in the fiber industry. During a complimentary lunch, attendees listened to keynote speaker, John Kriesel, a combat veteran and motivational speaker. In 2006, Kriesel lost both legs when a roadside bomb exploded under his vehicle while serving in Iraq. His message was to keep going even when life seems tough and to remember the blessings we often overlook in our lives.

With the completion of his keynote speech, Cotton U got started with a farm partnership panel that was hosted by Morgan. The panelists included Travis and Landon Mires from O’Donnell, Texas, and Mark and Bryce Howard from Dalhart, Texas. The father and son pairs discussed the ins and outs of two generations farming together and how they effectively run a partnership.

Next, the attendees were given several breakout speaker choices including a farm bill outlook session with Robbie Minnich, senior government relations representative at National Cotton Council of America; a weed management challenges session with Peter Dotray, Texas Tech University Rockwell Chair of Weed Science and joint appointment with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center; a sustainable farming during drought session from Barry Evans, a Swisher County, Texas, farmer; and the StoneX cotton marketing and hedging workshop.

After the breakouts, attendees were invited to a closing general session, which included a cotton production panel made up of cotton farmers across Texas and Oklahoma discussing cotton farming in their regions. The panelists were Mark Nichols, from Altus, Oklahoma; Steve Olson, from Plainview, Texas; Tony Cox, from Wellington, Texas; and Ryan Williams, from Farwell, Texas. The panel was hosted by Steve Verett, a Crosby County, Texas, farmer and former CEO of PCG.

Finally, the attendees networked during a Cotton U social with other farmers, speakers and sponsors. It was a full day of High Plains cotton growers connecting with experts and their peers through an educational event. Cotton U will return next March in Lubbock.

Lacey Vilhauer can be reached at 620-227-1871 or [email protected].