It shouldn't come as a surprise considering the comments made by its chairman in recent months, but Dunavant Enterprises, Inc., has submitted its resignation from the National Cotton Council of America.
William B. Dunavant Jr. hasn't been shy about voicing his criticism of the Council and its segments. Speaking at last March's Mid-South Farm and Gin Show, he faulted the Council for not representing the merchant segment properly in the outdoor storage issue in west Texas last winter.
Dunavant repeated the criticism and others in a letter to the Council signed by himself and William B. Dunavant, III, president and CEO of Dunavant Enterprises, on Oct. 9. He also said he believes the structure of the Council is outdated.
“As we look at all the dynamic changes in the industry, and particularly its growth into a global market, and the Council's struggle to respond to these changes as a unified organization, it has become apparent that the Council no longer functions as it was first envisioned,” he said.
In west Texas, some of the NCC's segments failed to oppose practices that “we strongly believe were detrimental to the competitiveness of U.S. cotton,” he said.
“On the outside storage issue, country damage and the ability to move cotton to alternative warehouses where the flow of cotton to market could have been much improved, some segments were actually an obstacle to solving these problems.”
He also cited the “virtual paralysis” that occurred while the Council tried to find a unified position on the outside storage and cotton flow issues. “At the end of our wrangling, the USDA edict was nearly identical to what was asked for the merchants in November 2005,” he noted.
“All this was going on at a time that we all should have been concerned, focused and united for the upcoming farm legislation. Our U.S. industry was forced to use valuable political capital on issues that were driven too far and for the wrong reasons, seemingly with only special interests at heart.”
Besides serving as president and chairman in 1988-99, Dunavant and his son have held a number of positions in the Council and the cotton industry. The company has also been generous in its support of the Council and other groups.
“The American cotton producer needs strong legislation to survive, and we support smart, fair and sustainable farm legislation,” he said. “We will support legislation that promotes American cotton and moves it as efficiently and as quickly as possible into global markets.
“We do not have the comfort of relying on the past practices of the cotton trade, as the world has changed so quickly, and will continue to do so. Sticking with the status quo will be the demise of our industry as we know it.”
Allen Helms, the current Council chairman, expressed regret at the decision and asked its leadership to convey their appreciation to Dunavant Enterprises, Inc., for its “many years of strong support and outstanding leadership.”