Observations from the Producer Information Exchange Tour
Thursday, September 10, 2015
By Lee Hall
What do soft towels, airplanes, peanut shells and pie have in common? They’re all components of an educational week spent in Georgia for the National Cotton Council’s
Produce Information Exchange program – also known as PIE. From August 2nd
, 10 cotton producers from Arizona and California took time out of their busy mid-season schedules to learn and compare notes with cotton producers from Georgia. They not only talked best management practices, but learned the diversified operations of southern peanut, peach, pecan, cattle production and more!
The week started in Griffin, Georgia with a visit to 1888 Mills, which exclusively utilizes Pima cotton grown in Arizona and California for the manufacturing of high quality towels. This visit served as an important insight into the relationship and interdependence of western cotton producer and east coast manufacturing.
Aerial application and agricultural aircraft are critical tools for producers east and west. Having the opportunity to tour an agricultural aircraft manufacturer, view firsthand the production line and interact with the craftsmen that build these high-tech instruments is a rare treat! During this visit to Albany, Georgia, the group had an in-depth tour of Thrush Aircraft Company
where they learned about innovations being developed to ensure the economic and ecological acceptable application of pesticides. Top of mind discussions revolved around drift and off target reduction strategies, increased regulation and drone legislation.
Peanut production, shelling and processing were new experiences for the Arizona and California growers. While in Tifton, Georgia the group visited KMC equipment manufacturing
who is one of just a handful of companies in the world that specializes in peanut equipment. Another stop at Tifton Quality Peanuts provided an opportunity to experience the mammoth task of shelling, grading and sorting peanuts. Learning about the agronomics and management issues from local peanut/cotton producers was an eye-opening experience for the growers. Discussions of food safety in the handling of peanuts especially resonated with a few of the California cotton producers that also grow almonds and grapes.
PIE….. It’s not just for dessert.
Relationships can be established sitting on a tailgate in a cotton field or having side bar discussions during a tour or in a meeting room, but nothing takes the place of sharing a meal to really begin to establish a relationship that may last for years. This was the sentiment of many of the “host” growers such as the Coley Family in Vienna, GA, Bill Brim in Tifton, GA, Kent Fountain in Surrency, GA who themselves had been past participants in PIE and invited the group from Arizona and California into their homes and businesses for a meal. It was very impressive to experience the eagerness and thoughtfulness with which the host producers from Georgia embraced the value of the program, the leadership from the NCC and the fact that they have the opportunity to directly support the tour.
One caution, the tour is not for those on a diet ….steaks, barbeque, shrimp and grits, more steaks and of course pie...and blueberry and peach cobbler, peach ice cream, homemade brownies and chocolate cake we’re all on the menu!
Shared practices/ shared concerns
There are many differences in cotton production east versus west, however, many common challenges and concerns connect these cotton producers even 2000 miles away. Water management, pollinator safety, resistance management and increasing regulatory hurdles were common topics during and between stops throughout the week. Producers also discussed their concerns with new herbicide technologies and the label requirements around resistance management. Western growers got a firsthand view of what palmer pigweed resistance can do to a production field, but they also were shown that resistance can be managed with the appropriate integrate weed management program and product stewardship.
There’s also just the plain fact that there are big differences between the south and the west that are even more obvious than the differences in accents.
- Production practices which involve the inter-planting of watermelons with cotton.
- Pecan production is common in the west, however 60 year old trees at 10 to 12 to the acre and irrigation strategies are a different spin on what is common in the west.
Embracing the differences in production and practices is a key part of building an understanding of the complexity of agriculture. From this understanding is the opportunity to become better and more vocal advocates for the industry.
These tours don’t happen on their own. Thanks to the experienced leadership, planning and cat herding by Jim Davis and Mike Bruggemann from the National Cotton Council the tour was a resounding success!
To learn more about this P.I.E tour, check out Western Cotton Farmers Tour Georgia Agriculture
featured on Southeast AgNet.
Be sure to follow us on Twitter
@Bayer4Crops and use #PIECotton
to check out the latest conversation about all four tours.