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PCCA celebrates 70 years of service, innovationPCCA celebrates 70 years of service, innovation

PCCA reflects on its success and innovations, while also looking ahead and facing its challenges.

Shelley E. Huguley

September 25, 2023

15 Slides

Plains Cotton Cooperative Association, a grower-owned marketing coop, recently celebrated 70 years of service. PCCA Chairman and New Home cotton producer Dahlen Hancock said reaching a milestone like this doesn’t “just happen. People make it happen.”

Tuesday, September 19, PCCA members and industry leaders gathered at the organization’s 70th Annual Meeting to celebrate 70 years of service to not only Texas producer-owners and gins but their members in 49 of the 50 U.S. states.

Hancock, after watching a commemorative video, compared the memories he’s made at PCCA with those he’s made throughout his farming career. He noted the various people who have served since PCCA’s inception in 1953.

“The different people, L.C. Unfred, who was chairman years ago, and some of the history behind the videos we looked at today, it’s special to get to that point. To be a part of that and get to see it and visualize it and look back at where we’ve been.”

But he said it was also meaningful hearing from the various leaders included in the video, who praised PCCA for their success. Leaders included Texas Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington, Governors Greg Abbott (Texas) and Kevin Stitt (Oklahoma) and National Cotton Council President Gary Adams, to name a few.

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“We’re a huge family,” Hancock said. “It’s a big network of folks in the industry. Sometimes we only think about what's going on in our own backyard, in our area, at our gin or region, but when you think about us nationally, how we're thought of and what part we play in that,” there’s a bigger picture.

 “It’s a huge accomplishment just to be here today,” he added. “You’ve got to be changing and evolving with the times -- these are challenging times in agriculture,” referencing drought, along with high production costs and interest rates.

“Every business has challenges today and PCCA’s no different.” 

During his annual report, PCCA President and CEO Kevin Brinkley, referenced losses suffered at the hands of the 2022 drought, leading to an overall abandonment rate of 75% of cotton acres. The cooperative recorded a net margin loss of $1.3 million, partly attributed to a $2.3 million book expense resulting from de-risking the defined benefit plan. Otherwise, PCCA would have reported a profit of about $1 million.     

Brinkley assured members that PCCA is still in good financial condition and continues to exist to ensure its farmers get a fair price for their cotton.

Learning in loss

Brinkley sat down with Farm Press following his address. “I said in the report, this is not something they teach at business school, to have such a huge drop off in your volume. But one of the things it gave us was a chance to look at every phase of the business and say, ‘What have we been ignoring that we can work on during this time period when the crop is short?’ And ‘What is this telling us about the structure of the business and how we operate and what it costs?’ Those sorts of things.”

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He described the losses as a huge learning experience. “Nobody wants to have financial loss but if you don’t learn from it, then it’s all for nothing. So, we’ve taken that position and we’re using it to position ourselves for the future.”

PCCA serves 12,000 cotton grower-owners in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico. While the drought this year hasn’t been quite as severe, volume is expected to be down once more.

“Again, it’s forcing us to look at the future and say, ‘How can we get our farmers as close as possible to the customers that buy the cotton?’”

One strategy is telling cotton’s sustainability story. “This will be huge for us as we go forward,” Brinkley said. "We have an advantage in the technology that we have that allows us to connect that story of the farmer to the consumer at the store. So, we’re looking for additional ways to do that and I think that will make our growers’ cotton more valuable.”

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One avenue is through the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol. “From the time a module hits the ground at harvest, we know the story of that cotton throughout the supply chain. And of course, we've connected that with the story from the producer in his profile in the Trust Protocol. So, that's going to allow us to get that cotton to the brands and retailers that want that as a value-added component to what they're making.”

The story-telling process has already begun, he said. “We’ll just continue it. Every brand and retailer are different, but we think overall that foundation is there to add value.”

The future

While the future holds uncertainty and yet promise, Hancock said he’s confident in the leadership PCCA has in Brinkley. “Kevin is a visionary. He thinks way outside the box. These are tough and challenging times. He sets that tone from the top down and the buck stops with him. I admire that.

“I believe in the future of PCCA, and I believe we’re going to get there through his leadership.”

As PCCA has looked back, highlighting the accomplishments and innovation of the last 70 years, Brinkley said the featured milestones are just a sampling. “There’s so much more that this group of farmers has accomplished over the years. I think that spirit going forward is going to propel us to do bigger and better things.

“We’re hoping people will take a look at that and go, ‘Gosh, we can do anything.’”

About the Author(s)

Shelley E. Huguley

Editor, Southwest Farm Press

Shelley Huguley has been involved in agriculture for the last 25 years. She began her career in agricultural communications at the Texas Forest Service West Texas Nursery in Lubbock, where she developed and produced the Windbreak Quarterly, a newspaper about windbreak trees and their benefit to wildlife, production agriculture and livestock operations. While with the Forest Service she also served as an information officer and team leader on fires during the 1998 fire season and later produced the Firebrands newsletter that was distributed quarterly throughout Texas to Volunteer Fire Departments. Her most personal involvement in agriculture also came in 1998, when she married the love of her life and cotton farmer Preston Huguley of Olton, Texas. As a farmwife, she knows first-hand the ups and downs of farming, the endless decisions made each season based on “if” it rains, “if” the drought continues, “if” the market holds. She is the bookkeeper for their family farming operation and cherishes moments on the farm such as taking harvest meals to the field or starting a sprinkler in the summer with the whole family lending a hand. Shelley has also freelanced for agricultural companies such as Olton CO-OP Gin, producing the newsletter Cotton Connections while also designing marketing materials to promote the gin. She has published articles in agricultural publications such as Southwest Farm Press while also volunteering her marketing and writing skills to non-profit organizations such as Refuge Services, an equine-assisted therapy group in Lubbock. She and her husband reside in Olton with their three children Breely, Brennon and HalleeKate.

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