Delegates to the 2016 National Cotton Council’s annual meeting in Dallas were a subdued lot, still stinging from the recent assertion by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack that he doesn’t have authority to designate cottonseed as another oilseed, a move that would have provided support to the commodity under the Agriculture Act of 2014.
Representatives from all sectors of the cotton industry expressed disappointment at the Secretary’s decision.
They also found little to cheer about in the economic outlook session. Jody Campiche, NCC vice president for economics and policy analysis, said sluggish demand, including reduced cotton consumption in China, is pointing to a bearish market.
Berrye Worsham, president and CEO of Cotton Incorporated, pointed out the challenge of reduced exports and fashion trends that favor synthetic fibers.
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Cotton farmers fear that some of their colleagues will face difficulty financing the 2016 crop.
In the midst of the doom and gloom, however, the cotton industry also displays the resilience that has been its stock in trade for decades — when they rode out droughts, beat back boll weevils, and tightened their belts when prices took a nosedive.
Jimmy Dodson, in a heartfelt response on receiving the Harry S. Baker Distinguished Service Award, quoted the 20th Century philosopher Snoopy. Dodson, a cotton farmer and industry leader from Nueces County, Texas, recalled a cartoon with Charlie Brown sitting on a dock, looking in the water and remarking that “every day folks do the same thing — and then one day we all die.” Snoopy, the dog, replied, “But the other days, we don’t.”
Dodson encouraged his colleagues to take advantage of all those other days. “What will you do with them?” he asked.
NCC Chairman Sledge Taylor, in his last remarks to the council group before handing over the leadership reins to incoming chairman Shane Stephens, encouraged farmers, ginners, manufacturers, buyers, and others in the cotton industry to stay the course and to look to the future “with vision, integrity, and purpose.”
That’s what I like about cotton people: markets, weather, and pests may create havoc, but those in the industry somehow find a way to endure. In fact, the latest NCC survey released at the meeting, indicates U.S. cotton farmers are planning to plant more cotton acres in 2016.