David Burns and the late Billy Carter, two nationally known North Carolina cotton leaders, are recipients of the 2019 White Gold Award presented by the North Carolina Cotton Producers Association.
Burns is a Scotland County cotton farmer who has held numerous leadership positions in the cotton industry and is credited for expanding the boll weevil eradication program into southern North Carolina.
Carter, who tragically lost his life on Jan. 1, 2011 following a car accident, was a lifelong cotton farmer and much respected industry leader and the first executive president of the North Carolina Cotton Producers Association.
Burns accepted his award at a January banquet at the Angus Barn in Raleigh held in conjunction with the 2019 North Carolina Commodities Conference. Carter’s widow, Beverly Carter Walker and his daughter Beth Burchell, accepted the award honoring their late husband and father.
In presenting the award honoring Burns, Allen McLaurin, a Laurel Hill, N.C., cotton farmer and a past president of the Southern Cotton Growers, noted that Burns has held virtually every leadership position in North Carolina and Southeast cotton as well as numerous national leadership positions. He has served as president of Southern Cotton Growers, president of Cotton Council International and as a director on Cotton Incorporated’s board.
Most notably, during his tenure as chairman of the Cotton Board, importers were brought in to help fund the Cotton Research and Promotion Program conducted by Cotton Incorporated. McLaurin noted that through Burns’ leadership, importers were easily assimilated into the program. “The Cotton Research and Promotion program could not have been in better hands,” McLaurin said.
Burns graduated from Pfeiffer college in 1960 with a degree in biology and went to work for McNair Seed Company as a cotton and soybean breeder. While earning a master’s degree in agronomy from Auburn University, Burns developed two of the most widely planted cotton varieties in the Southeast, McNair, 220 and McNair 235. McNair 235 was one of the varieties used in the earliest efforts to insert Roundup tolerance and BT into cotton.
Burns and his wife Sandra have been married for 52 years and they have two children and six grandchildren.
Like his fellow cotton farmer, David Burns, the late W.L “Billy” Carter also held numerous leadership positions in cotton at the statewide, regional and national level. For more than 20 years, Carter served as a producer delegate with the National Cotton Council and served on the board for six years. He chaired the American Cotton Producers from 1992 to 1993 and was elected the Council’s secretary-treasurer in 2001.
He also served as president of Southern Cotton Growers and served as a director on Cotton Incorporated’s board.
Constantly engaged in promoting and protecting U.S. cotton's interests, Carter served as a member of the USDA Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee for Cotton, Peanuts, Planting Seeds and Tobacco for more than 10 years
Carter was born and raised in a farming family, where from an early age he developed a strong work ethic and love of the land. He and his wife, Beverly, owned and operated Carter Farms, in Scotland Neck, N.C, for more than 30 years.
At the time of his death, he was serving as a deacon of First Baptist Church of Scotland Neck and was chairman of its finance committee.
Burns and Carter are the third and fourth North Carolina cotton leaders to receive the White Gold Award presented by the North Carolina Cotton Producers Association.
The first recipient was Marshall Grant, a North Carolina farmer who received the honor in January 2015 during the North Carolina Commodities Conference for leading efforts to eradicate the boll weevil.
In January of last year, Dr. Alan York, North Carolina State University’s recently retired Extension weed specialist was the second to receive the honor, for his years of service to North Carolina agriculture and his major contributions to weed control.
David Parrish, CEO of the North Carolina Cotton Producers Association, says the White Gold Award was established to recognize significant contributions to the North Carolina and U.S. cotton industries. The name for the award, White Gold, was chosen to reflect not only the importance cotton has played in the economy of the United States through history, but the level of achievement reached by the recipient.
Beth Burchell, left, the daughter of the late Billy Carter, and Beverly Carter Walker, right, Carter’s widow, receive the North Carolina Cotton Producers Association White Gold Award honoring Carter from Association President Rob Fleming.