Although the Beltwide Cotton Conferences format will change beginning in 2014, facilitating technology transfer to industry members is still a National Cotton Council priority.
How is the Beltwide changing?
Earlier this year, the NCC’s directors unanimously adopted a NCC Beltwide Cotton Conference Study Committee recommendation. That recommendation calls for the NCC, beginning with the 2014 Beltwide Cotton Confer-ences, to plan and manage the annual Beltwide Cotton Technical Conferences, which will last one and one-half days.
However, in place of the Cotton Production Conference and related workshops normally held in conjunction with the Beltwide, the NCC will coordinate 1) input for existing regional production meetings/conferences throughout the Cotton Belt and 2) development of special programs of local/regional interest when appropriate. That coordination will be with industry organizations and other groups – including Cotton Incorporat-ed, Cotton Found-ation, USDA’s Agri-cultural Research Service, land grant universities, state Extension services and producer interest organizations.
Why the change?
First of all, the Study Committee deliberated long and hard and considered multiple alternatives to the current long-standing Beltwide Cotton Conferences’ structure. The Committee realized that there has been increased use of the Internet coupled with a growing number of regional educational meetings for producers. The meetings, which include an increased focus on local production issues and substantially reduced costs for attendees, are drawing more producers. The Committee also knew that the NCC annually was devoting 7,210 man hours to Beltwide-related activities – the equivalent of 3.6 full-time employees.
An effective use of NCC resources recognizes this shift in producer meeting participation and realigns staff resources to better serve the ongoing and critical need for technology transfer.
Does this reflect new priorities?
No. The NCC remains strongly committed to cotton research and fostering technology transfer while finding a more effective and timely delivery mechanism for addressing the critical issues that producers face locally and regionally. In fact, we believe that not only will the NCC’s educational program be enhanced through this flexibility but this re-direction of our producer and consultant educational efforts will reach an audience far in excess of current Beltwide attendance. Specifically, that means covering issues that also are faced by non-producer industry segments.
The NCC also will continue to initiate new educational opportunities for producers. For example, there is the potential for an electronic or technologically savvy program similar in scope to the Cotton Physiology Education Program that can reach a much broader base of producers and consultants than currently attend the Beltwide. Any new programs would be in addition to the successful Cotton Foundation-supported: Journal of Cotton Science, the Producer Information Exchange, the Multi-Commodity Education Program, the Weed Resistance Learning Module and the Advancing Cotton Education program.
Mark Lange is president and chief executive officer for the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming page.