Barry Evans used his farewell remarks as president of Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., to remind farmers and other industry representatives that, despite current positive signs for cotton, the industry faces a boll buggy full of challenges.
Evans, speaking at the recent Plains Cotton Growers 53rd annual meeting in Lubbock, Texas, said farmers need to speak out against all the “misinterpretation about what a real farmer is. People see references to ‘big acreage’ and assume it’s a big corporate farm. We need to get the word out about what a real farm is.”
Evans said definitions of a “big” farm are confusing. “USDA defines a large farm as one with more than $250,000 in annual sales.” That figure may be misleading, depending on crop and acreage under production.
Evans said the housing industry considers a big business one with more than 500 employees. “How many farmers here have 500 employees?” he asked. “How many have 50? Maybe a few of us have five.”
He said he operates his farm mostly with family labor. With current technology, he said, a family farmer can tend more acres then he used to. “But it’s still a family farm.”
Evans mentioned two Web sites that help dispel some of the misperceptions of a modern farm. He said farmpolicyfacts.org and thehandthatfeedsus.org are two “resources for urban media regarding agriculture’s importance to U.S. society. Steve (Verett, PCG executive vice president) is a spokesman for The Hand That feeds Us.”
He quoted President John Kennedy, who said: “Our farmers deserve praise, not condemnation; and their efficiency should be cause for gratitude, not something for which they are penalized.”
That’s a sentiment often forgotten in Washington and one that farm organizations need to recall as they “gear up for 2010 farm bill debates. We’re hearing of possible cuts to the current farm law,” he said. “But PCG will be on the front line to support agriculture. PCG is more politically active than ever before.”
He said PCG board members and staff work closely with individual congressmen and their staffs “to help them understand what a farm really is.”
He also praised efforts by the National Cotton Council. “They have scientists who work with EPA to help them understand agriculture.”
Evans said agriculture, especially cotton, is going through a change. “Change is always difficult. We now export more than 80 percent of our crop and we used to spin 80 percent of it in the United States. We all love cotton. We know it’s a good market product and we have to spread that message.”
He said PCG partners with the Cotton Council International to promote their products internationally.
He said positive things are happening in the cotton industry. “The cottonseed insurance option will be a benefit. Cottonseed is a valuable part of the crop and we need to be able to insure it. That will be available for the 2011 crop year.” PCG spearheaded that effort.
He said PCG also has a calculator available on its Web site (http://www.plainscotton.org) to help farmers assess the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE) and a seed cost calculator. “The staff at PCG does a wonderful job. I’m proud of PCG.”
He said Texas High Plains cotton producers will be responsible for a significant part of the U.S. cotton crop in 2010. “One-fourth of the U.S. cotton will be grown by High Plains cotton farmers,” he said. “We will continue to do all we can to provide leadership to the cotton industry. I’m proud to be an American farmer and proud to be a family farmer.”