Saturday morning of Seminar II began with a visit of Commonwealth Gin in Wakefield, VA. This tour was facilitated by two advocates of the cotton industry. John Parker is the Chief Agronomist at Commonwealth Gin. Paul Rogers is the owner of Rogers farms, a 1,200 acre farm growing cotton, peanuts, grains, etc. His is also Chairman of the Board for VDACS, member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, an Advisory Council member of VALOR, and Board Member of Colonial Farm Credit. The visit offered industry perspective from a grower of cotton and a buyer of cotton, and showcased how they work together in producing and marketing this famous southern crop.
Paul and John discussed the favorable market conditions for the cotton industry in 2012. The price of cotton has only exceeded $1/lb just three times in history, with current market prices near $0.75/lb. Production ranges between 800 – 1,100 lbs/acre. Farmers face many challenges from insects and weather conditions. If rainfall is excessive as the pod begins to open, compaction can occur, reducing a 1,000 pound crop to as low as 700 lbs.
The group was most excited to see the cotton gin in production. We were able to view how the gin separates the cotton fibers from their seeds, and how debris is also removed to improve quality. The final product is bundled and wrapped in a rectangular bale, and Commonwealth Gin stores the bales for sale to merchants. Seeds are also used for future plantings, or devoted to cottonseed oil or meal.
Knowing most of the VALOR fellows are not from southeast Virginia, this was a very enlightening and educational visit for the group. The group extends a special thank you to John Parker and Paul Rogers for their time in sharing their perspectives of the cotton industry.