Faces of Cotton: 20 Questions with Tony Williams
Today is Tony Williams’ last day working for the Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association (TCGA). I called him on Monday — his last day in the office — and since I knew he was busy getting ready for his annual ginners’ fishing trip, we played 20 questions.
1. What are you most looking forward to in retirement?
I met my wife, Lagina, in 2015 and we eventually married and live in CorpusChristi. So I’ve spent the past seven years driving back and forth from Austin to Corpus Christi. It will be nice to wake up on Monday morning knowing I don’t have to start the journey back to Austin. Plus, I’m looking forward to helping my wife run her business, Stover Equipment Co, Inc. and watching my step-daughter, Jayna, graduate college and my step-son, Jaxon, graduate high school.
2. What would you consider your greatest accomplishment at TCGA?
The Texas Cotton Ginners’ Trust that we developed out of TCGA in 1994. It’s a separate entity now, but I was proud to be a part of developing a way for the cotton ginning industry to find affordable and available workers’ compensation insurance.
3. Is there anything that you weren’t able to accomplish?
It’s minor but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always admired the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Program member signs and wanted to provide that for our ginners to put on their outdoor sign or in their office. I’m sure the guys will take up that mantel.
4, What was your greatest challenge as executive vice president?
One month after I began working at TCGA, I was named executive vice president. That wasn’t the original plan, so I was thrown into the deep end pretty quickly. The support staff I had was new, too. I discussed the possibility of getting my old job back and telling the ginners to find someone else because I was only 26 years old, but they stuck with me. They had my back from day one and said they would take care of me no matter what. So I hit the ground running and never looked back.
5. That seems like an overwhelming life experience. What made you decide to stick it out?
Well, I like a challenge and I’m not afraid to tackle the hard tasks. I had a fire in me to be successful and the support of the ginners made me want to work hard for them.
6. What’s your favorite memory of your time at TCGA?
In 2005, I was given the TCGA Life Member award. My mom was always a special person in my life, and she wasn’t able to attend the award ceremony. I did not know I was the recipient and when they called my name, I realized they were broadcasting the ceremony to my mom so she could watch me receive it. That was a big deal in 2005. She ended up passing away that same year, so I was so grateful she was able to participate.
7. Do you have a favorite motivational quote?
I don’t know if this is a legitimate quote or if I made it up, but I always tell people, “Keep plowing forward.” I rarely look back — I just keep going — and I usually tell people to do the same thing. You can’t make progress if you’re not moving forward.
8. What’s your favorite song?
There are several but “Amarillo by Morning” by George Strait is probably my No. 1.
9. Who was your favorite co-worker? (wink wink)
I can’t play favorites! But I have always said that the best thing I ever did was hire Kelley Green. He saved the gins on the environmental regulations. I still remember meeting Kelley at the Capitol building in Austin and offering him the job. I had a great team and they made me look good. I enjoyed working with everyone.
10. What piece of advice would you give aspiring professionals today?
Make sure the career you choose is something you are passionate about. I was very passionate about the job at TCGA. I had grown up around agriculture and knew that what TCGA did was important. Find what drives you and pursue it passionately.
11. Do you have any hobbies?
My favorite is probably saltwater fishing. I also play golf and enjoy bird hunting.
12. Do you have any pets?
Right now I have a Boxer named Ginger and a Shitzu (if you want to call it that) named Max. I love dogs but I ended up with a cat in the marriage named Reese. We get along O.K., but I’m just not much of a cat person.
13. What’s your favorite color?
14. What’s your favorite sport to watch?
15. What’s your favorite food? (This might have been the toughest question I asked.)
Oh man, I’m going to say chicken-fried steak. I should probably say my wife’s roast, which is great. But I think I’ll stick with chicken-fried steak. Final answer.
16. Who would you consider your No. 1 mentor throughout your career?
There are two. Having lost my father at age 15, my FFA teacher Finus Branham took me under his care and set me on a path toward pursuing a career in agriculture. Clemon Montgomery, who was running Texas Cottonseed Crushers Association at the time, guided and helped me tremendously in learning the ropes in Austin and the Texas Legislature.
17. Looking back on your career, is there anything you would’ve done differently?
I wish I would’ve documented more stories from industry veterans and taken more photos of my time at TCGA.
18. Can you sum up your TCGA experience in one word?
19. What was the coolest part of this job for you?
In this job, I touched every single person’s life every day. There’s a good chance that every person is either wearing some cotton or using it in household products. Or they’re using cottonseed oil in cooking or other products. It’s kind of corny but I like the fact that what I do impacts everyone’s life, because, in some form or fashion, everyone is consuming or using cotton.
20. What will you miss the most about TCGA?
The people are what make this industry great. Cotton is a lovely product. It does a lot for our region, state and world to produce the fiber we do here, but it’s produced and ginned by some amazing people. And that’s why I have loved what I do for the 33 years I was privileged to do it. I’ve been so blessed to have the opportunity to work in this industry.
Plains Cotton Growers Inc. joins organizations across the stae to highlight theimportance of land stewardship during Texas Soil Stewardship Week April 24th through May 1st.
“Soil is the foundation to everything,” said Mason Becker, producer in Terry County in an interview with Farm Policy Facts. “The soil is your savings account — every farmer will tell you that. If you don’t take care of your savings account, then you won’t have anything in the ‘bank’ when you need it.”
The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) across Texas have been working to encourage wise and productive use of natural resources since 1939,
“I’m constantly trying to learn how God created the world, how it functions and what I can do to work alongside it,” said Jeremy Brown, producer in Dawson County, in an interview with Southwest FarmPress.
Blue Jeans Go Green Initative
Since 2006, Cotton Incorporated’s Blue Jeans Go Green program has collected denim (made from cotton) so it can be recycled back to its original fiber state and transformed into something new.
To date, the program has diverted 2,100-plus tons of denim from landfills and recycled more than 4 million pieces of denim. You can stop by the PCG office to donate your denim or visit: bluejeansgogreen.org
Reliance on H-2A Workers Spikes as Specialty Crop Producers Face Labor Shortages
Access to farm labor continues to be a significant challenge for specialty crop growers, who face challenges filling positions with domestic workers. This is due in part to the physical and temporary nature of employment, and the ability of employers to offer salaries that are competitive against employment opportunities in other sectors. Farm wages were only 59% of the wage rate of comparable positions in other industries in 2020.
PPF Gin and Warehouse LLC Wins Module Truck Case
As we reported earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Texas handed PPF Gin & Warehouse, LLC a big win by denying Delta County Appraisal District’s petition for review. The arguments and rulings related to this case can be found here: bit.ly/3LAhy1h.
This entire case began when Delta County Appraisal District assessed PPF for the value of their module trucks. PPF argued that the module trucks are specially designed trucks used for gathering and removing cotton from the field during harvest time and should therefore be considered machinery used in the production of farm products.
In other words, PPF argued that these trucks are not taxable since they meet the definition of agricultural equipment. This argument is very similar to the one we used when arguing that the module truck driver position qualifies for the H-2A program. PPF has been making this argument with the Delta County Appraisal District since 2018, but after not making any progress, they sued the Appraisal District and won in trial court. Delta County appealed, but the Texarkana Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s opinion. Finally, the Texas Supreme Court denied Delta County’s petition for Review, which essentially means they refused to hear this case.
Now, what does this mean going forward? It would seem to me that this means the value of the module trucks will need to be removed from each gin’s rendition, which is a major win for the entire ginning industry in Texas. The trial court also ordered Delta County to “inform the appropriate taxing units of this correction, as required by the Texas Tax Code.” I am certainly no tax or legal expert, but the ruling sounds to me like they are saying that this will apply to all appraisal districts. It is too early at this point to know how this will play out throughout Texas. It is possible that all the appraisal districts will see this case, and simply drop all the module trucks off the renditions this year. It is certainly also possible that they may try to make an argument that the PPF situation is somehow different and that this case is not applicable to all gins in Texas. The PPF case has handed the Texas cotton ginning industry a major victory, and now in my opinion we need to follow through. When you receive your property tax rendition this year, check it out and see if the module trucks are included in the valuation. If they are, I would sure talk to your appraisal district about the PPF case and contest the inclusion of module trucks in your property valuation. One would think that the appraisal district would be very hesitant to deny the appeal, considering the PPF case. If they do try to argue that your gin or your situation is somehow different from PPF, then please let your association know – we would like to keep a close eye on the impact this ruling will have on the gins throughout the state. In addition, be sure your tax professional is aware of this ruling, in addition to your appraisal district. As always, please give us a call if you have any questions, or need any more information related to this or any other regulatory issue affecting your operation.