By Lynette Cockerell
Cotton farmers and industry leaders descended upon Austin on March 4, 2003, to celebrate a day billed as “Cotton Day at the Capitol.” The event marked the seventh consecutive state legislative session when a day was set aside to promote the commodity.
Cotton Day at the Capitol is sponsored by Texas Cotton Producers, a statewide organization comprised of nine regional organizations actively representing cotton growers in different areas. More than 75 people attended the event. The participants included cotton producers, ginners, and allied industry representatives from across Texas.
One of the goals of Cotton Day is to prepare the groundwork for strong communication with Texas legislators and to begin the search for solutions to the problems and challenges that lie ahead for both the state and the cotton industry. The event provides an opportunity for cotton industry representatives to meet with each legislator to discuss the important role cotton plays in the Texas economy. Cotton Day also serves as an educational opportunity to acquaint those unfamiliar with cotton about its economic impact, its many uses, and the broad range of industries affected by the state’s largest agricultural commodity.
Wesley Butchee, a Seagraves, Texas, cotton producer and member of Loop Coop Gin, attended Cotton Day in 1997 and again this year. According to Butchee, it is imperative that state representatives stay in touch with all the issues that affect Texas, but it often is difficult for representatives who lack an agricultural background to understand issues affecting cotton.
“We have capable people in Austin, but ultimately their decisions are only as good as the information they’ve received,” Butchee said. “By visiting these people on Cotton Day we give them valuable, first-hand information and are available to answer their questions. I like to think that we may sway a vote or two just because the representative can say ‘I learned something about this from a cotton farmer,'” he added.
For five consecutive legislative sessions, Don Langston, a cotton producer near Wolfforth, Texas, and a long-time member of Lubbock Cotton Growers, has traveled to the state capitol for the event. Langston says it is important to ensure urban members of the Texas Legislature are made aware of the importance of cotton to the state’s economic health.
“This year’s visit to the capitol was unique because we were able to thank the Legislature for its support of the boll weevil eradication program, to update representatives on its success, and to encourage them to continue to fund the valuable program,” Langston explained. “It also was important for representatives to see our cohesiveness. There was no segmentation within the industry at Cotton Day because we were all there with the same intention – to promote the crop we all depend on for our livelihood,” Langston concluded.