Another year, but not just another Beltwide

Early estimates indicate that over 1,200 people attended the 2014 Beltwide Cotton Conference in New Orleans this year. It definitely had the feel of Beltwides past, but not so much the crowded halls and organized chaos.

The Consultant’s Conference, put together a few years ago to provide a forum for early arrivers, is now a big part of the new Beltwide. During the coming year, you will hear about the issues discussed there and at the Beltwide Technical Conference, including the impact of cotton production on bee health and the link between weed resistance and thrips.

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We also learned that despite the decline in cotton acres over the past few years, the pipeline of new technology, products and varieties marches on. In 2014, expect several root knot nematode resistant varieties and a new Bt technology to find acres in the United States.

Missing was the substantial exhibit space and corporate presence that supported past Beltwides. The Cotton Production Conference is gone along with most of  an ubiquitous National Cotton Council staff humming like a well-oiled machine, who no doubt would have personally fixed the heat in the newsroom.

But of course, the newsroom would not have been so frigid had the entire Gulf Coast not been smacked with a blast of artic air that took visitors and residents by surprise.

When we arrived in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon, Jan 5, it was a balmy 72 degrees. The next morning, we awoke to the chill of 20 degrees and large pools of condensed water dripping from our window sills onto the carpet. Few dared to brave the cold streets and winds of New Orleans, which might as well have been Manhattan at Christmas.

The new Beltwide was informative and well-organized, save for a glitch here or there, which will no doubt be corrected by 2015. As always, we gleaned much solid information to pass on to producers.

We unveiled our High Cotton Delta States award winner Kenneth Hood, who brought most of his family to New Orleans, except for his three brothers, who stayed home to tend to broken water pipes. His 92-year old mother, Odelle, would have made it too, had the weather been a little warmer.

One Beltwide tradition remains unchanged, the temporary absolution of guilt, when crabmeat cheesecake and white chocolate bread pudding can be enjoyed one last time before New Year’s resolutions really start.

All in all, I enjoyed this Beltwide just as much as I have others. Even scaled down, it remains as the premiere event for kicking off a brand new cotton production season.

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