In spite of a Texas heat wave, nine cotton producers from California and Arizona traveled across Texas to participate in the National Cotton Council’s Southwest Producer Information Exchange (P.I.E.) program, the last of four regional events this year designed to help cotton producers interact with growers from other regions.
The program is designed to help cotton producers boost their overall operational efficiency by gaining new perspectives in fundamental practices like land preparation, planting, fertilization, pest control, irrigation and harvesting while discovering and sharing unique ways to utilize new technology and methods.
"Twenty five years ago when this information exchange program was started, a lot of growers from different areas across the cotton belt were interested in how producers in other regions were working through problems and what solutions to common problems they had discovered. So they decided the best way to collectively solve problems would be to travel to other regions and share information," said Rick King, Texas representative for the National Cotton Council (NCC), who traveled with Western cotton producers throughout the four-day PIE event in the Lone Star State.
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King has been a part of the Producer Information Exchange (P.I.E.) since its creation, and says since its inception, some 1,050 participants have traveled to various regions in an exchange program that has helped the industry grow and also helped to develop lasting relationships between producers of different growing regions.
"As a group of growers we knew we would need a good sponsor for such an aggressive program and Bayer CropScience came forward and has supported the exchange for the last 25 years," King added. "Without their assistance, much of this program would not have been possible and we enjoy a great relationship with them and are honored to have them as our anchor sponsor."
Each year the Cotton Foundation receives sponsor support in the form of a grant from Bayer, and then selects producers to participate in the exchange.
"This year's exchange started its first leg when a group of producers from the Southeast traveled to Louisiana and Mississippi July 7-12. On the second leg of the exchange Mid-South producers observed operations in Georgia June 23-28," said Iris Williams, Bayer CropScience market acceptance manager, who also traveled with the West coast group. "On the third leg of the exchange, cotton producers from Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas observed cotton and other agricultural operations in California’s San Joaquin Valley the week of July 22 and on this fourth leg, Western producers visited Texas with stops in Lubbock and Corpus Christi."
The Southwest tour participants included Don England, Jr., and Jonathan Cockrill, both from Casa Grande, Arizona; Phillip Garcia from Eloy; and Kelci Morrow of Coolidge, Arizona. Californiaproducers included Jake and Aric Barcellos, both from Los Banos, California; and Tim Gomes from Gustine; Adam Mendes of Fresno; and Matthew Watte from Tulare.
In Lubbock participants visited PYCO Industries, Vardeman Farms and Caprock Vineyard on Monday and were provided updates on Bayer CropScience research and development, a production discussion from a Plains Cotton Growers representative, and were briefed on the Texas Cotton Improvement program.
Tuesday's agenda included a visit to the Farmers Cooperative Compress, a briefing on electronic marketing, a tour of the Lubbock Feedlot and a tour of Mimms Farm. Tuesday evening, producers traveled by air to Corpus Christi.
The Corpus Christi leg of the exchange included Wednesday visits to Stover Equipment Company for an update with company officials on the latest models of module trucks and equipment and visits to ginning operations in nearby Odem and Gregory. To round out the day, producers were briefed at the expansive Gulf Compress facility and its expansion at Corpus Christi's deep water port facility and were surprised by a visit from NCC Chairman Jimmy Dodson, a Corpus Christi area farmer. Dodson welcomed producers and talked about the farm bill, international trade issues and the growth of the U.S. cotton industry.
"The P.I.E. tour is a very important part of what the Cotton Council does and I want to welcome all of you to South Texas. I hope your visit here will be productive and while not everything you see here will apply to what you do at home, some of it will, and it's not just a one-way street as we hope to learn some new things from you as well," Dodson said.
Following his surprise address, producers were taken on a bus tour of the port facility followed by a number of farm tours to round out the day.
Thursday the group visited the famous King Ranch and toured the Texas AgriLife/Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's Mariculture Laboratory in Flour Bluff in the afternoon to view algae biodiesel and gossypol-free shrimp feeding projects.
Cotton Foundation President Barry Evans, a Kress, Texas, cotton producer, said the U.S. cotton industry expresses their appreciation to Bayer CropScience for underwriting the P.I.E. program.
“Bayer’s support has enabled hundreds of U.S. cotton producers to compare notes with their peers about what works and doesn’t work and to see and hear how their fellow cotton producers are dealing with current farming challenges such as managing weed resistance and crop input costs,” Evans said. “And the P.I.E. tours enable participants to not only learn from their hosts but exchange ideas and information with the producers they are traveling with during the week.”