Most awards are special, but Richard Kelley says being named Ginner of the Year was especially meaningful because it “was by and of your peers.” Because the award came from ginners he has looked up to and admired for years, Kelley said he will always cherish it.
Kelley also said he had to give a lot of credit to family, many of who were on hand to see him receive the award. "We're working a lot of ground and ginning a lot of cotton, and it's just too much for anyone to try to accept this much credit for themselves. It's too much for one person to do it all."
This year's winner started in the cotton business with rented ground in 1972. "I made a good crop, and I thought this is going to be easy. We made good yields, and we didn't have a lot in it. We had some great years."
Cotton farming hasn't always been that easy, and Kelley, who last year served as president of the National Cotton Ginners Association, said many parts of the Cotton Belt are facing difficulties, including Texas and California, which are facing serious droughts.
"The cotton business is doing well in some parts of the country," he said. "In our area of the Mid-South, these boys to the south of us in Mississippi and Louisiana made some tremendous yields. I think maybe yields can trump prices. We've got to stay in the business whatever it takes to keep our infrastructure strong.
"We've got to look for ways to put something new into the industry. It will come back I'm sure, but I think the next two or three years we're going to have some low prices, and we've got to yield out of that some way. We have to stay alive and keep our infrastructure strong and viable and, hopefully, we can survive this."