This year's High Cotton Awards breakfast was very much a family affair. Members of the winners' immediate families attended the annual event that recognizes the environmental stewardship contributions of U.S. cotton farmers. But the presence of other members was obvious from the comments of the winners from the four regions of the Cotton Belt and the Farm Press editors who presented them with the coveted Cotton Boll awards.

“The High Cotton award has become an award that also recognizes the value of the farm family and the legacy of families like the Cox family who work hard to preserve a family lifestyle,” said Harry Cline, editor of Western Farm Press.

“When Mike was selected for this award, he was reluctant to accept it. Like most farmers, he does not like the spotlight. Mike quickly gives the credit for his passion for cotton and prowess for growing it to his Dad, Don Cox. “So as we honor Mike Cox as this year's Far West High Cotton Award winner, we also honor the Cox family of Imperial Valley, Calif.”

As Cline explained in his article about Cox in the High Cotton Award issue (Delta Farm Press, Jan. 7, 2005), Don Cox grew the family's first cotton crop in the Imperial Valley in 1952. Growing cotton in the valley has never been easy and insects like the silverleaf whitefly actually drove the family out of the cotton business in the early 1990s.

But Mike Cox got back into cotton when others did not and has continued to pioneer new production techniques to stay in the cotton business.

“There is one ingredient Mike possesses you cannot buy at the local equipment dealer — it is his love of cotton,” said Cline. “As his wife, Jody, says, ‘Mike has a passion for cotton.’”

“This is a great honor,” said Shep Morris, the winner of the High Cotton Award from the Southeast. “I want to thank my family members who have always been there for me.” Morris' wife, Marguerite, his son, J.W., and his daughter, Beverly, were on hand to see him receive the award.

Morris was introduced by Paul Hollis, editor of Southeast Farm Press.

Mid-South winner Bruce Bond, a producer from Portland, Ark., recognized other producers for their contributions to his farming success after he received his award from Elton Robinson, editor of Delta Farm Press.

“When I look around this room I see some guys who know a lot of things and are very innovative,” said Bond. “Through the years I've read the Delta Farm Press and other publications, and I've seen your names. I've tried to glean information from those articles, and we've tried to apply that on our farm.

“Like many of you, I've had to make some changes to be able to stay in business, and I just thank you for the opportunity to do that and for this award,” said Bond. His wife, Linda, and son, Jason, attended the breakfast.

In his introduction, Robinson quoted Jason Bond, who recommended his father for the award, as saying, “He lives by the motto that he should leave the land in better condition than he found it.”

“I want to thank Southwest Farm Press for this recognition,” said Mike Tyler, the High Cotton Award winner from Lamesa, Texas.

Tyler, who served nine years as mayor of Lamesa and has an affection for Harley-Davidson motorcycles, was accompanied to the High Cotton Awards breakfast by his wife, Deena.

“When Mike has a day or two when he doesn't have cotton to strip, peanuts to combine, or politics or other farming matters to take care of, he'd just as soon be out on his Harley,” said Ron Smith, Southwest Farm Press editor, who introduced Tyler.

“But he takes care of his farm before he heads out on the highway. Mike has practiced some form of reduced tillage for years and says production costs have gone down while yields have gone up. Cover crops protect soil from erosion, save young plants from blowing sand and put organic matter back in the soil.”

“Shep, Bruce, Mike Tyler and Mike Cox are an inspiration to their fellow cotton producers, business associates and their communities,” said Allen Helms, a cotton producer from Clarkedale, Ark., and president of The Cotton Foundation.

“All High Cotton Award winners demonstrate certain characteristics of environmental stewardship and pursuit of excellence; all have quality operations, and they all work on behalf of the cotton industry. When they tailor this to their own operations, they are a credit to cotton producers.”

The High Cotton Awards, which are now in their second decade, are sponsored by Farm Press Publications through a grant to The Cotton Foundation. A division of Primedia Business Magazines and Media, Farm Press publishes Delta Farm Press, Southeast Farm Press, Southwest Farm Press and Western Farm Press.

Co-sponsors of this year's awards are Delta and Pine Land Co., Emergent Genetics, Inc., Helena Chemical Co., John Deere Co., Syngenta Crop Protection, U.S. Borax Inc., and Valor Herbicide and Valent U.S.A.

“We say that the folks who have won this award are the best in the Delta or the best in the Southeast or the Southwest and the Far West,” said Bob Moraczewski, senior vice president with Primedia Business, who welcomed participants to the breakfast at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans.

“But I can't help but believe that with the contributions these growers have made to producing high yield cotton with conservation and environmental stewardship in mind, they are, in fact, the best producers in the world.”