PCG Board Focuses on Cotton Contract

Disputes, Water at January Board Meeting

Friday, January 18, 2013                   By Mary Jane Buerkle

      The Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., Board of Directors at their meeting on Wednesday approved three major motions that will allow the organization to influence significant issues currently affecting High Plains cotton producers.

      The board unanimously elected to speak out publicly as an organization about issues surrounding cotton contracting disputes, emphasizing the sanctity of contract and the ability for the producer to obtain a fair dispute resolution process. PCG has been working within the industry over the past year to address issues related to arbitration by the American Cotton Shippers Association, which many contracts include as the channel for dispute resolution.

      The Board's action expands PCG's efforts to provide additional information about specific disputes, which unfairly target cotton producers who signed acre contracts with Venture Cotton Cooperative for the 2010 cotton crop, and the issues surrounding the arbitration process. A wet spring and summer sent crop production estimates skyrocketing, but dry conditions set in throughout the rest of the 2010 season and a late-season hail storm destroyed a significant amount of acreage in areas southwest of Lubbock.

      Venture is suing cotton producers for the difference between the contracted estimate and the actual production, claiming that even though they delivered all the cotton they produced, they are still responsible for losses incurred due to the shortfall. In the cases that have been reviewed by PCG leadership, the producers delivered everything produced from the contracted acres and therefore upheld their end of the contract, since the original agreement was specifically established as an acre contract and not a bale contract.

      To settle these disputes, the next step would be for the producers to enter into ACSA arbitration proceedings with the merchant, but that process was deemed "unconscionable" by both a Gaines County judge in the 121st Judicial District and by the state's Eleventh District Court of Appeals. The appeals court even went so far as to say the process is "substantively unconscionable," or in other words, grossly unfair.

      "This whole chain of events has many of our producers backed up against a wall, spending tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours just to clear their name when it appears they fulfilled their part of the contract in the first place," PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett said. "Despite the way the ACSA arbitration rules currently are written, we are aware of no case where an arbitration decision in favor of the producer has been accompanied with an award of legal fees back to the producer to cover those expenses. Further, based on this evidence, there is no indication that the ACSA arbitration process will ever treat a producer fairly in that regard."

      The board unanimously passed a motion that PCG leadership work to incorporate various points discussed by the board related to the ACSA arbitration process as the minimum adjustments that need to be made to improve the dispute resolution/arbitration process when applied to producer-merchant cotton contract disputes. PCG leadership currently is in the process of setting up a meeting through the National Cotton Council with ACSA to discuss how to make their arbitration process more equitable when it comes to producer-merchant disputes.

      In another move, the board unanimously elected to submit a letter to the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District proposing that the District consider past PCG president and Petersburg cotton producer Ronnie Hopper for the position vacated by Bruce Rigler on their board. Hopper has demonstrated a strong interest in and knowledge of groundwater issues and serves on PCG's Water Advisory Committee and the HPWD's Stakeholder Advisory Committee.

      Other actions taken by the PCG Board included the unanimous approval of a PCG policy position on the State Water Plan in Texas.

      Tom Sell with Combest, Sell & Associates talked to the group about current farm policy issues. He said that he expects debate on new farm policy likely would begin in late spring or early summer.     

      Dr. John Robinson with the Texas A&M Department of Agricultural Economics reported to the group about the cotton market. He said he expects a price range of between 65 and 85 cents for 2013 and noted that China will continue to influence the market due to the amount of cotton it controls. Robinson added that ultimately, China's influence will act as a limit on both ends and keep cotton prices within a relatively narrow band.



Lubbock's Dever Receives 2012 Cotton

Genetics Research Award

Friday, January 18, 2013 From the National Cotton Council

Dr. Jane Dever, associate professor-cotton breeder for Texas A&M AgriLife Research in Lubbock, is the recipient of the 2012 Cotton Genetics Research Award. The announcement was made during the 2013 Beltwide Cotton Improvement Conference. In recognition, she received a plaque and a monetary award.

Dr. Dever has been in her present post since 2008, where her major research focus includes development of new and differentiated germplasm with enabling technology and screening exotic germplasm collections for useful traits to be used in breeding cotton. Breeding targets include improved fiber quality; drought tolerance; nematode tolerance; tolerance to Verticillium dahlia (verticillium wilt), Theilaviopsis basicola, (black root rot) and to Xanthamonas (bacterial blight); and yield component improvement in high fiber quality lines.

More about Dever's work can be found online at http://www.cotton.org/news/meetings/2013bw/dever.cfm.

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Upcoming Area Ag Conferences

      NOTE: A complete list, along with program agendas when made available, can be found on the Plains Cotton Growers website at http://www.plainscotton.org/agconferences.html

      January 21 - Cotton Production Profit Workshop, 8:30 a.m.-noon, Activity Building, 200 W. Taylor, Morton - Contact Jeff Molloy, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-266-5215.

      January 22 - South Plains Ag Conference, 7:45 a.m., First Baptist Church Activity Center (Please enter from the east doors), 219 West Main, Brownfield - Contact Chris Bishop, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-637-4060.

      January 22 - Sorghum U, Overton Hotel & Conference Center in Lubbock - Register at http://www.sorghumu.com.

      January 23 - Southern Mesa Ag Conference, 7:45 a.m., Forrest Park Community Center, 814 S. Houston, Lamesa - Contact Gary Roschetzsky, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-842-3444.

      January 23 - Northwest Texas Ag Conference, Wellington - Contact Dale Dunlap, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-447-2313.

      January 23 - Permian Basin Crop Conference, Stanton - Contact Katy Weber, County Extension Agent-AG, 432-756-3316.

      January 24 - Caprock Crop Production Workshop, 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Floyd County Friends Unity Center, Muncy - Contact Caitlin Jackson, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-675-2347.

      January 24 - Lamb County Ag Conference, 8 a.m.-4:15 p.m., Lamb County Ag and Community Center, Littlefield - Contact Logan Newsom, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-385-4222 Ext. 235.

      January 25 - Commercial Turf and Ornamental Workshop, Lubbock - Contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office in Lubbock County, 806-775-1680.

      January 25 - Llano Estacado Cotton Conference, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Bailey County Electric Cooperative, 610 E. American Blvd., Muleshoe - Contact Curtis Preston, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-272-4583.

      January 28 - iPhone/iPad Training - Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office - Gaines County Courthouse, 101 S. Main, Room 108, Seminole - Contact Terry Millican, County Extension Agent-AG, 432-758-4006.

      January 28 - iPhone/iPad Training - 1:30-4:30 p.m., Brownfield ISD Administration Building, Brownfield - Contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office in Terry County, 806-637-4060.

      January 29 - Small Farms Business Seminar, Plainview - Contact Gary Cross, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-291-5267.

      January 29 - Cotton Variety and Economics Workshop, Farwell Community Center - Contact Benji Henderson, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-481-3619.

      January 30 - Alternative Crops Meeting, Post - Contact Greg Jones, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-495-4400.

      February 5 - "Other Than Cotton" Meeting, Lamesa - Contact Gary Roschetzky, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-872-3444.

      February 6 - Grain Sorghum Workshop, Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center, Lubbock - Contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office in Lubbock County, 806-775-1680.

      February 7 - Potter County Grain Sorghum Conference - Contact Brandon Boughen, 806-373-0713.

      If you have another conference to add to this list, or if you have an agenda you'd like to link, please call PCG at (806) 792-4904 and ask for Mary Jane Buerkle, or email maryjane@plainscotton.org. All spring conferences are listed at http://www.plainscotton.org/agconferences.html.



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