"Some of us wouldn't be farming today had it not been for the success of the cotton research and promotion program," says Mississippi producer Seymour Johnson. "This is the premier program in agriculture, and all of us in cotton owe a debt of gratitude to the foresight of those who developed the program."

Johnson, chairman of the Cotton Board, whose members provide oversight for the producer-financed programs of Cotton Incorporated, has been a supporter from the beginning. "I believe in this program and have confidence in it and what it is doing for America's cotton farmers. I feel a deep sense of obligation to this industry for all the help it has been to me."

As one of farming's survivors - he started 48 years ago, after finishing graduate school - Johnson has seen a lot of agriculture's ups and downs. And from the perspective of the decades, he can even laugh about some of his decisions.

"When I came back from graduate school, our family had a money-losing cotton seed business, and I spent seven years on the road selling cotton seed. I've seen the inside of more cotton gins than just about anyone around (there were 10 times more gins in operation in those days). Smart MBA that I was, I decided the cotton seed business had no future and we sold it. I've had numerous opportunities to regret that."

The success of the cotton research and promotion program has been due, in large part, to the cooperative efforts of everyone involved in it, Johnson said at the Cotton Board's annual meeting at Coronado, Calif. "We've had a few hitches along the way, but over the years the efforts of a lot of good people have paid off in a fine organization."

The new Cotton Incorporated facility at Cary, N.C., which was officially dedicated earlier this year and combines previously separated operations at one location, is further tribute to this spirit of cooperation, he said. "Everyone is working to give the American farmer a good return on the dollars invested in this program."

More than 300 producers from around the country - key influencers and innovators who will go back and communicate to their peers their impressions - have visited the new facility this year, getting a firsthand look at how CI's programs are helping devise new ways for cotton producers to achieve profitability, helping mills and others find new and better ways to use cotton, and developing advertising and promotion programs that will enhance cotton's already-prime image with consumers worldwide.

Among some of their comments: "After having seen firsthand how our dollars are used, I'll never look at this program in the same way again." "This graphically demonstrates why we must support these efforts to create consumer demand for our product."

These farmer visits have been made possible by contributions from Aventis Crop Science, Bayer, Delta and Pine Land, Delta Farm Press, and Zeneca.

While collections from the checkoff program may be off a bit this year due to the weather-reduced crop in many sections of the Cotton Belt, Cotton Incorporated budgets approved by the board for 2001 indicate that funding for key programs will be steady to higher.

Bob McGinnis, chairman of the Agricultural Research Committee, said the $8.957 million budget includes a 14 percent increase in research, with a 5 percent increase for support for state research programs. Other budget amounts submitted and approved included: Textile Research, John Sharp Howie, chairman, $8.327 million; Global Product Marketing, John Pucheu, Jr., chairman, $9.15 million; and Consumer Marketing, Larkin Martin, chairman, $32.567 million (the majority of which goes to CI's wildly successful TV/consumer magazine ad campaigns that have helped make the Cotton Seal one of the most recognized logos on the planet).