On the heels of an “encouraging upturn” in cotton’s global demand, the U.S. cotton industry has “excellent prospects for achieving profitable cotton production and processing” in the period ahead, the chairman of the National Cotton Council said in kicking off this year’s Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Atlanta.

The surge in global demand and the fact that “the world needs more cotton,” particularly in rapidly-developing economies like China and India, bodes well for the natural fiber, Eddie Smith, Floydada, Texas, producer said, noting that the council’s export promotion arm, Cotton Council International, “is well-positioned and committed to capitalize on this opportunity.”

CCI’s message about the U.S. cotton industry’s continued commitment to quality and timely delivery “was reinforced in numerous meetings with representatives of our largest customer during last September’s leadership exchange trip to China, led by Council Vice Chairman Charles Parker,” Smith said.

The Beltwide conferences, which draw several thousand producers, agribusiness representatives, university/Extension/research personnel, and government leaders, is the largest annual event for the U.S. cotton industry.

“These conferences are unsurpassed in terms of their diversity of audience and the number of research disciplines represented,” Smith said, “and our partnership with all these sectors has a tremendously successful track record.”

The steering committee for this year’s event, chaired by Perthshire, Miss., producer/ginner Kenneth Hood, established goals for maximizing attendance, facilitating involvement by participants, and enhancing technology transfer. Among changes was a revamping of the conferences’ schedule in order to include more workshops and seminars.

These include a workshop on sustainability, natural resource conservation, and farm profitability is the topic of one workshop, spotlighting the cooperative efforts by the council, Cotton Incorporated, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Keystone Center and other organizations to document U.S. agriculture’s strong record of adopting responsible production and conservation practices. The workshop featured a hands-on demonstration of the Field-to-Market grower tool.

Another workshop, to be held Thursday morning, will be devoted to “one of production agriculture’s biggest concerns, weed resistance management,” Smith said. The topic is considered so important, he noted, that an entire morning will be devoted to it and no other sessions will be held during that time period in order to allow maximum attendance.

A third workshop was planned on what’s in the pipeline for new cotton traits and products that are under development.

For the fourth year, the Beltwide has also included a Cotton Consultants Conference, focusing on new technologies and regional crop assessments.

In summing up the National Cotton Council’s activities in 2010, Smith expressed appreciation that “our industry’s collective resources were effectively applied to successfully address a wide array of priority issues this past year.”