, Tulia, TX, knows this is true. Swinburn began farming in 1965, the same year he graduated from Texas Tech University, with a bachelor's degree in agronomy.He
family farm a large number of diversified dryland and irrigated crop acres just south of Tulia, in the Texas Panhandle.Swinburn
raises mostly cotton, with wheat, grain sorghum and corn rotations, and a stocker cattle enterprise on the side.In addition to being a fairly successful cotton farmer, Swinburn is a member of the Cotton, Inc., board of directors and the Texas Plains Cotton Growers. Swinburn also is a member of the newly formed Texas Cotton Planning Panel and is chairman of its marketing and policy subcommittee.He
says the Texas Cotton Planning Panel
is a new venture that aims to coordinate all of the research and funding efforts of the various cotton scientists, economists, marketers and producers within the state.This eventually would benefit cotton farmers statewide.
"Texas spends about $8 million each year on the cotton industry," Swinburn
says."And there are various groups, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service
, the Texas Cooperative Extension Service, Texas A&M University
and Texas Tech scientists and various producer organizations that all have their separate goals and agendas for where the resources should be allocated.This planning panel aims to be more efficient in allocating funding and research to producer-identified important areas."
The group first met in April, 2001, at the request of the Texas Cotton Producers Association
.Joining the TCPA
were the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station (TAES), the Texas Cooperative Extension Service (TCES), Texas Tech University
(TTU), Texas A&M University (TAMU) and the USDA-ARS
.The organizations pulled together a committee of representative scientists, producers and agribusiness professionals, from across the state.
The resulting Statewide Plan for Texas Cotton Research and Education will serve as a broad guide for cotton producer organizations, state research programs, state Extension programs and funding agencies for the next five years and will be reviewed annually, says Swinburn
"Basically, this will refocus our dollars for different programs and policies, and will show researchers and industry people just what Texas cotton producers need and want."According to the November, 2001, cotton planning committee recommendations, the planning panel found producers generally want easy access to cotton specialists, in their individual areas, more research to improve and economize cotton production, and better policy help for Texas cotton producers, among other things.
Another major blip on every cotton producer's radar currently is the cotton marketing situation.Right now, cotton prices are at 20- to 30-year lows.And there is a glut of cotton on the worldwide market today.
"In west Texas, better quality cotton sells at 29 cents per pound, and the Loan Deficiency Payments (LDP) are around 22 cents, which totals about 51 cents per pound for Oshiny cotton, " says Swinburn
.Therefore, one hope for cotton farmers is the debated farm bill currently before Congress.
"It is difficult, though, for Congress to make changes to the farm bill and farm programs, without an economic model to follow," Swinburn
says."They need to see what impact the changes will have on a farmer in west Texas, and the risks and benefits of other decisions."The subcommitte found Texas A&M
were using federal funds to develop such economic models, essentially duplicating research efforts.However, the models often didn't address policy changes suggested by farmers or adequately represent Texas farms statewide.Therefore, the subcommittee suggested cotton farmers a voice in Congressional debates farms, in more Texas regions, used in the economic models that are used for policy analysis.
The subcommittee also found production and price outlook research and education programs are increasingly in demand among farmers.
Also, cotton marketing systems are changing with the computer age, and producers need to come up-to-speed in the use of this technology, Swinburn
"We are on the verge of a total electronic marketing system," Swinburn
says."It used to be, you had your green card, but now you can market your cotton over the Internet, with an electronic transfer of title.Even when you send your cotton samples into the USDA office, in Lubbock, all of the information is returned to you electronically."
The panel plans to meet several more times in the next year to update the plan and to address key producer concerns and issues.So far, the panel has identified several broad issues, such as the need to partner TAES cotton programs with neighbor states to better utilize limited federal funding and the need for more key research positions in academia.
says one key issue he
sees in the cotton industry is the advance of transgenic cotton varieties.More academic and Extension research specialists could help farmers better understand its costs and benefits."In west Texas, transgenic cotton is planted on the majority of acres," he
says."But I think we may see a little bit more of a movement back to conventional cotton, because of the economics of the business.Conventional varieties are available and less expensive and just as good as the others.New to our area are Fibermax cotton varieties, which are out of Australia.For the most part, its germplasm isn't transgenic, but they are moving in that direction.I think it has a big future in our area.
"We need to organize and make our research into production and genetics more efficient," Swinburn
says."Right now, production costs are high and prices are low, but this also is true for all commodities, not just cotton.
"We have lived in some good times," he
adds."And I am thankful for that.We just need to pull together and look to re-allocate our resources to the benefit of all Texas cotton growers, in these more difficult times."