The opening is seconds away, and traders are already shouting across the pit and scrumming for position. When the bell rings, a game of mental rugby begins. Cotton prices are pushed and pulled by young locals, who hold their ground with yells and elbows. Paper swirls around the floor like tufts of spike-loosened grass.

Circling the fray, floor reporters jab away at IPACs, which communicate through wireless antennas directly to a supervisor's screen. Above the wrangling, the supervisor somehow straightens the mess out real time. There is no tomorrow in the cotton pit at the New York Board of Trade, only the rise and fall of adrenaline. Price discovery is not for the faint of heart.

U.S. cotton producers and marketers have the opportunity to witness this daily event, and perhaps try their hand at it, July 12-13, when the Cotton Forum convenes in New York City.

Attendees will participate in an orientation at NYBOT, for an inside look at how the exchange operates, followed by a mock trading session on NYBOT's trading floor before heading out that evening to Shea Stadium for a baseball game between the New York Mets and the Cincinnati Reds.

On July 13, at NYBOT, a panel of experts will bring cotton producers up to date on the latest cotton fundamentals and provide an outlook for the future and pricing strategies.

Special guest speaker at the Roundtable is Joe Nicosia, president and CEO, Allenberg Cotton Co., Memphis. Other panelists include O.A. Cleveland, professor emeritus, Mississippi State University, Carl Anderson, Extension specialist emeritus, Texas A&M University, Jarral Neeper, vice-president, marketing, Calcot, Mike Stevens, Swiss Financial Services and Pat McClatchy, executive director, Ag Market Network.

McClatchy says the event can help producers achieve a better understanding of how cotton prices are determined and help them become better marketers. “As we look at successful farm marketers around the country, what we're finding is that they take a diverse approach to marketing. The very best marketers might have part of their crop in a cooperative, part of their crop may be turned over to a professional marketer and another part may be handled by the farmer himself. They don't have it all in one source.

“But no matter what you do, improving your marketing skills is critical. There is a greater sense of urgency among farmers today to seek out ways to improve their profitability with much higher production costs.”

The mock trading session may not be part of future events much longer, noted McClatchy, depending in part on the success of electronic trading. Today, less than half of the cotton trading volume at NYBOT is done through open outcry on the floor.

There is still time to reserve a place on the roster. But space is limited. Call McClatchy at 1-888-795-8071 for registration or more information.

You don't have to be in New York to listen to the Cotton Roundtable. The meeting will be broadcast live on the NYBOT Web site at http://www.nybot.com and by teleconference to the Ag Market Network listening audience.

The program will also be carried by KFLP radio, which covers the west Texas area. It's also available live at http://www.kflp.net, on a 10-second delay. Questions for the meeting will be accepted from the listening audience.

An archive of the roundtable will be available at http://www.nybot.com and http://www.agmarketnetwork.net. The Cotton Forum is sponsored by the New York Board of Trade, Certified FiberMax, Cotton Incorporated, Ag Market Network and Farm Press Publications.