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Beltwide musings – less cotton, more food and a changing industry

There were several takeaways from the 2013 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in San Antonio, Texas last week.

Texans seemed happy about the precipitation that fell in the region, and let’s hope that steady drizzles continue throughout the winter and spring. The state is still looking at moderate to exceptional drought across most of the state.

Cotton acreage will be down this coming season, but maybe not as much as everybody had anticipated. Speaking at the Beltwide, cotton market analyst O.A. Cleveland estimated that between 9.3 million and 9.6 million acres could be planted in the United States in 2013, which is only a 26 percent reduction from 2012. Other industry analysts had estimated reductions as high as 30 percent to 35 percent. There’s little doubt that global cotton supplies do need to be worked down, however, and demand needs to improve.

This is the last year that the Beltwide will include a production conference. The 2014 Beltwide will consist of a technical conference and a consultants conference.

Why the change in format? There are a number of reasons talked about in the halls and by ways of San Antonio meeting rooms this year. Producers today don’t travel like they used to and prefer to get their information regionally. And there’s those high corn and soybean prices making cotton less attractive, at least for now.

But no doubt, the idea of the Beltwide as the cotton industry’s defining event doesn’t resonate for producers like it used to, for whatever reason.

On a, er, lighter note, I won’t even bother stepping on the scale when I get back home. The buffet breakfasts and lunches and sit down dinners and scattered snacks and hors d’oeurves served at Beltwide receptions, will add not only pounds that must be taken off but another pound or two of residual that won’t be.

Even for those with steely resolve, petite plates of fruit, cold pasta and salads will invariably give way to a trough of protein, carbohydrate and chocolate. At some point during the Beltwide, even Dr. Oz himself would have to utter, “Oh, what the heck.”

What’s one more day of holiday indulgence before New Year’s resolutions kick in? What’s one more pound to shed this summer, one more stitch popped in the old suit? When you’re in the presence of good friends of like mind, it’s all good.

By the way, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

And so, to all my friends at the Beltwide, who like me have all grown older, wiser and weightier through the years, “Stay thirsty for knowledge, my friends.”

See you at the next Beltwide in New Orleans.


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