Tim Price paraphrases Mark Twain, declaring that “reports of cotton’s death are greatly exaggerated.”

In a year when he says talk has gone from ‘What kind of cotton year do you think this will be?’ to ‘Will we even have cotton in years to come?’, the Southern Cotton Ginners Association executive vice president says the industry has been hit with “a cold reality check” in this year when corn has knocked off king cotton’s crown in terms of acres planted in the Delta.

But he said at the association’s joint meeting with the Delta Council’s Ginning and Cotton Quality Improvement Committee at Stoneville, Miss., “Our industry is always changing, and the question becomes, how can we affect the inevitable to our own benefit? How we answer that is critical to our future success.

“I believe we will not only have a future for cotton, but that the cotton industry is the model for commodities in the future. It’s the most highly technically attached to developments in seed genetics, global positioning systems technology, and other cutting edge advancements. It also has a value-added component in our cotton gins that produce industrialized products.”

There is, Price says, “intense investment and continued major interest worldwide in the manufacturing and equipment sector in the harvesting and ginning of cotton, so they obviously believe in its future and sustainability.

“What we have in our industry, and the infrastructure we have, haven’t come by accident or by history, but by continual advancements in technology and finding ways to develop even more useful, profitable products.

“Thanks to organizations like the National Cotton Council, the Delta Council, and other Mid-South ag organizations, plus a strong agricultural research system, we’ve been able to work together to bring even more advancements to our industry.”

Price says the SGA is currently working with the National Cotton Ginners Association and the National Cotton Council to develop a contract for sales of cottonseed and other products that will be suited to the industry’s particular needs.

“With concerns over food safety and food security, what happened with contaminated pet foods and other issues related to China that came home to the American consumer and American industry, we’re taking a proactive step that will help us say to our customers, ‘Here is the quality I’m guaranteeing in a contract, and I’m testing it before I send it to you.’

“It’s a lot better, for example, that we test for aflatoxin before we send a shipment into export than to have the customer come back later and say, ‘Guess what I found?’ The days of working with a generic contract form and a handshake are gone, and this will increase our reliability and viability for the future.”

The ginner association has also placed major emphasis on safety and has developed a program that keeps management and workers continually involved in training and awareness efforts — which has not only drastically cut worker injuries and deaths, but has had a significant impact on insurance costs and insurability.

“It’s far better to have this sort of thing come from within than to have the government do it for you.”

e-mail: hbrandon@farmpress.com