From Great Falls, Mont., you’d have to drive at least a thousand miles before you saw a cotton field. But that’s exactly where a group of cotton farmers headed last month as part of the National Cotton Council’s (NCC) Multi-Commodity Education Program (MCEP).
MCEP was designed to help cotton farmers discover new agronomic practices, on-farm technologies, marketing plans and operational structures. So even though no cotton is grown in Big Sky Country, the trip was an informative one for everyone involved, explains Charlie Bumgarner, farmer and vice president of the Montana Grain Growers Association.
"I think the best thing I liked was getting to talk to these guys about their operations and their challenges," he says. "The exchange tour is so good for being exposed to the different regions and seeing how they operate."
Tour stops included visits to:
• The Montana State University Southern Agricultureal Research Center in Huntley
• Farm visits to see production of irrigated malt barley, sugar beets, corn, wheat, alfalfa, cover crops, sunflower, safflower, peas, lentils and more
• Area businesses, including a grain elevator, tractor dealership and co-op
• The Giant Springs Trout Hatchery
"I think the cotton growers were awed with the expanse of Big Sky Country," Bumgarner says. "I heard a lot of interest with how our irrigation water is collected and used. And climate, markets, transportation of product and regulations are common to all producers. And when it comes to shaping farm policy, it helps to understand what all commodities need."
For more information about the exchange tour, visit http://www.cotton.org/news/releases/2014/mcepmon.cfm. For more farmer-led discussions about crop production, visit the AgWeb forums.