When asked how long he’s been involved with National Cotton Council, outgoing Chairman Ron Craft, Plains, Texas, thought for a second and said, “I can't go back that far. It’s been a long time.”
Craft’s term as chairman expired Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, at the National Cotton Council’s annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas, as he handed over the gavel to Mike Tate, Huntsville, Ala. But Craft says the long road to chairman began years ago through his involvement in state associations, like Texas Cotton Ginners, Texas Independent Ginners and Plains Cotton Growers.
Landon Craft, left, joins his father and outgoing Chairman Ron Craft, at NCC's 81st annual meeting.
“It’s always seemed like I was a part of the council just by belonging to those organizations and then through their leadership they would direct us to serve in different positions such as delegates to the National Cotton Council or something of that sort. Then there are the connections and friendships you make with the people you sit with on committees and boards, and it just evolves into, ‘Here we are.’”
Looking back over his term as chair, Craft says working on the farm bill has been the highlight. “The farm bill only comes around every so many years. Being able to go to Washington, D.C., and visit with congressmen and educate them on how important farming and food and fiber are to the United States, not only for consumers but for security issues, that’s been quite an accomplishment — to get that done and in a timely manner. It’s taken a lot of involvement, a lot of folks, a lot of interest organizations coming together and making this happen as well as Congress and President Trump being able to sign it into law.”
When Craft is not advocating for cotton on behalf of NCC, he’s at home ginning it. “I’m a fifth-generation cotton ginner. I tell people, maybe I just don't know any better, but I can't afford to get away from it,” he says jokingly. “It’s an industry that’s near and dear to my heart.”
Craft's gin, New-Tex Gin, located 87 miles southwest of Lubbock, on the Texas/New Mexico state line, ginned 46,000 bales this year. In spite of the drought and a wet harvest, he says, the year ended better than they had anticipated, “which is always good.”
One issue Craft faces at his gin, which is also a forefront concern for the NCC, is cotton contamination. Craft says the contamination is not only from the plastic wrap on round bales but also plastic shopping bags. “Contamination’s one of the things the council is really focused on, as well as your state ginning associations across the United States. It’s a serious issue. I’ve been in China and I’ve talked to mill people there and they’re concerned.”
John Deere, NCC and Tama, the company that manufactures the wrap, have created a video to educate producers, ginners, warehouse managers, or anybody handling the round bales, how to avoid contamination, Craft says. “It has to start in the field and we as producers need to be educated, we have to have clean fields.
“We don't need to turn our backs on this issue because it can be costly. Anytime we have a merchant buy cotton from a producer, he’s buying it as a good, tenderable bale of cotton and the mill takes that cotton with full confidence that it is. So, when they get into their laydown room and they find this contamination, it costs them a lot of time and money to pull it aside and go through it.”
In the past, Craft says merchants have absorbed those costs but now it’s become a serious enough problem that they will track the contamination back to either the gin or the producer, which may result in a monetary fine. “We don’t want that. The United States has the best fiber and that’s what we want to give to the end user or customer, whether that’s Vietnam or China or wherever.”
As Craft looks forward, he says while 2019 will have its challenges, the passage of the farm bill eases some of the burden. “The farm bill has allowed a security blanket for financial institutions and growers, so that’s going to be something they won’t be faced with like they were in 2018.”
Following the economic outlook presentation by NCC Vice President of Economics and Policy Analysis, Dr. Jody Campiche, at the joint session of delegates, Craft says he feels optimistic. “Things look positive. It looks like there’s going to be a lot of acres planted, which is good for cotton and the segments of the industry that belong to it.”
At the close of the 81st annual meeting, Craft handed over the reins to incoming Chairman Tate. “I can assure you, the industry is in good hands and good leadership with Mike. He will hit the ground running being a strong advocate of cotton along with the National Cotton Council.”