Five years ago, the coordinators of the Beltwide Cotton Confer-ences (BWCC) took a bold step. After years of discussion, they finally decided it was time to have a special meeting devoted exclusively to cotton consultants at the conferences.
It seemed like a logical move in light of how important the consultant’s role has become in making important recommendations to a farmer during the season. In retrospect, it was one of the best decisions the conference coordinators could have made.
That first meeting attracted a crowd of several hundred, and attendance has increased every year since then. Another large turnout is expected at the 2012 BWCC in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 3-6.
“There were a number of folks at the National Cotton Council who always wanted to organize something like the Consultants Conference,” says Bill Robertson, conference coordinator.
“I was a part of that group, and the conference has just taken off and is going stronger than it ever has in the past. I have always felt that the consultants are a vitally important group in our industry.”
Robertson can recall firsthand his days as the Arkansas Extension cotton specialist and how important consultants were to farmers. Even back in the 1980s and 1990s, the consultant was playing an important part in a farmer’s management strategy.
Today that role has expanded to the point where it is nearly unheard of for a producer not to have a consultant. In addition to keeping up with technology, the consultant makes recommendations on pest control, herbicide programs and financial matters.
“The farmer relies on the consultant to stay updated on all of these new technologies,” says Robertson. “He still has the final say on what needs to be done, but he definitely needs to have a consistent level of trust with the consultant.”
Important Source Of Information
While the job of a consultant may seem daunting, Robertson says these special advisers know how to digest information and then share it with the farmer.
“It’s never a question of how much a consultant will cost a farmer,” he says. “It’s more a situation where how much money can the consultant make for the farmer.”
Robertson can also recall when attendance at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences topped the 5,000 mark in the mid-1990s. This was during an era when there were no smartphones or Internet. For a farmer to learn about production practices in another part of the Belt, he had to travel to meetings and hear presentations.
Today, that same information is available online to farmers and consultants, and they never have to leave their desks to find it.
“We’re in a completely different environment,” says Robertson. “Every farmer’s operation has fewer people, and the farms have gotten so much bigger. Crop production budgets also require that a farmer know where every dollar is spent.”
Several reasons for the continued popularity of the Consultants Conference, according to Robertson, are timely information, entertaining break-out sessions and quality speakers.
For example, Arkansas weed scientist Ken Smith has 90 minutes on the program at this year’s conference and will offer an in-depth look at weed strategies that worked and didn’t work in 2011.
Another component of this presentation will be an update on how producers in northeast Arkansas united this year against resistant pigweed.
“This is no ordinary weed pest,” says Robertson. “We have to control it, or it will have dire consequences for the future of cotton production.”
Contact Tommy Horton at (901) 767-4020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why Should Consultants Attend The BWCC In Orlando?
• Exchange ideas with other consultants.
• In-depth presentations.
• Special program on weed resistance.
• Stay updated on industry issues.