Skip to main content

Much More Than Storage

PCCA’s Warehouses Secure Value and Stability

By Blair White

pcca warehouse rolling plains sweetwaterValue, security, and stability are critical elements in the life of a Southwest cotton grower. In 1963, PCCA’s leadership recognized patrons needed to vertically integrate into warehousing to manage the various risks of desert cotton farming. As a result, the organization established two cotton warehouse operations: one in Altus, Oklahoma, and one in Sweetwater, Texas. Even though some of the buildings are older than PCCA, they still stand tall and strong, protecting our grower-owners’ cotton from the elements and housing them for shipping.

Before cotton warehouses became the standard for storage, bales were often arranged in lots outside, exposed to the elements. The burlap bale covers of the day didn’t offer much protection. The longer the bales were outdoors, the further their quality degraded, and the less cotton farmers were paid for the fiber. Today, millions of bales are stored in dry warehouse locations in secure covers that protect the valuable fiber.

North and South

PCCA’s warehouses actually operated as separate divisions until 2008. The Altus location was referred to as the Oklahoma Cotton Cooperative Association, and the Sweetwater location was the Rolling Plains Cooperative Compress. The warehouse closest to the respective gins received the cotton.

The idea of consolidation was brought up by a gin manager who wondered why PCCA had separate warehouse divisions when they essentially operated basically the same. Shortly after, representatives from the committees of OCCA and RPCC began evaluating what it would take to combine the two divisions. Their research efforts identified that consolidation would increase stock retirements projected for 2008. The decision was a logical one to make.

Creating one warehouse division allowed PCCA to shift labor, equipment, capital, and other resources where necessary so nothing was wasted. The Warehouse Committee was also formed, starting a new era for PCCA.

Growing and Going

As PCCA expanded its marketing operations and gained traction in Kansas, the need for new warehouse locations became evident. Soon after, locations were established in Big Spring and Rule, Texas, and Liberal and Clearwater, Kansas.

“Around 2001, a couple of things started occurring in our trade territory,” said Jay Cowart, Vice President of Warehousing. “The most impactful was the boll weevil eradication, which we started seeing in the early 2000s. We also started seeing these transgenic cotton varieties come about around the same time. When our growers were no longer burdened with the risk of boll weevils, we saw them commit quite a bit more resources to produce a crop. So, we instantly saw significant yield gains occur and the growth of the warehouse division really began with that.”

The Altus warehouse location features a state-of-the-art loading and shipping facility and a new private intermodal rail facility. The construction of the private intermodal rail facility in 2020 led to a decrease in fuel and labor costs and has increased the timeliness and efficiency of shipping cotton to the West Coast for export. Before its inception, PCCA had to ship cotton by road to the Dallas/Fort Worth area before it would go on to the Ports of LA/Long Beach, California, via rail. In removing the trip to Dallas, an estimated 88,000 road miles are saved per train. Since the rail facility’s inception, over 3.5 million truck miles have been removed.

PCCA has transformed its Warehouse Division from merely providing storage to one that creates additional value through industry-leading handling and logistics. For the last 60 years, the division has paid consistent annual dividends to growers who store cotton at these facilities. Employees of the Warehouse Division come to work each day to help provide stability to farmers’ operations.

“I think the most impact we can have on our growers is in the efficient, timely shipping of their cotton,” Cowart said. “The marketplace continually gives us feedback that cotton is more valuable to them if they can get it shipped timely. So that’s our goal. If that allows our growers to get a better price, then that’s where we can add the most value at the end of the day.”