View From The Beltwide: Optimism Reigns

As I write this, I am winging my way back to the home office after a couple of days in Nashville at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences. This event is a terrific opportunity to immerse myself in the cotton market and get a feel for where everyone sees the business headed.

What impressed me the most from a big picture standpoint is that people remain optimistic, despite glum acreage predictions for 2008. On the other hand, experts expressed that the picture should change during the next 12 to 18 months, when we could see a turnaround of some sort. It’s unlikely that it will return to historic highs, because some of the underutilized infrastructure is being shuttered to match the lower planting expectations — and the fact that the impact of the increasingly globalized cotton market is a long-term and likely permanent trend. But improvement appears to be in the offing.

Regardless, those committed to cotton are truly committed, and the charge to manufacturers from these folks is, find me ways to increase yield and lower production costs. Through improved seed genetics and technology like precision agriculture, manufacturers are only too happy to oblige.

As a final point, I got to moderate a panel discussion on effective record keeping and data management, and more than 100 came to hear a real world example of a grower who’s fully automated his operation with software tools that allow him to collect and manage data from field to farm efficiently and painlessly. You’ll be hearing more about him in future PrecisionAg projects. Anyway, the audience was pretty quiet with their questions about his operation until I asked the grower, “So, how does a grower get started?”

After that answer came, the audience got a bit more engaged, leading me to think that it’s really pain aversion that is keeping growers away from technology.

The answer to the question about getting started is, get started right away, because there is no perfect time to get started. It will take time, and it will be a hassle, and you’ll make mistakes, but everybody does. The effort is worth the benefit. It’s not easy, but by all means, if you haven’t started, get started now.

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