Table of Contents:
- The ‘Junkyard Dog’ is slowing down
- No blowing smoke
- Earl Williams steps down from California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations.
- He was part of key group that won major political victories.
Earl Williams never bought a return bus ticket to Arkansas as he once threatened a few years back when California cotton acreage dipped below 200,000 acres in 2009, the smallest acreage since 1932.
Earl’s first bus trip to California was in 1958 when, as a teenager, he came to California to join his family. His father had been a cotton farmer in the Mid-South. Unfortunately, Earl’s dad had lost it all farming there and moved to California a year or so earlier to begin anew, working for a long-time friend who was a gin manager.
Earl stayed around home for a while and almost became the first Colonel Sanders of the chicken world, selling rotisserie chicken cookers throughout the South. “People would stand in line to buy those chickens,” Earl laughs.
However, the chicken business was not for Earl. The poultry industry’s loss became the California cotton industry’s gain.
Earl retired Dec. 31 as president of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, a post he has held for 20 years. Before that, he parlayed his Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo degree into careers as a gin manager, farmer and farming entrepreneur.
I met Earl when he joined the growers association.
Earl and the associations he represents have been unrelenting advocates for the cotton industry and agriculture as a whole.
The keyword there is “unrelenting.” Matter of fact, I gave him a moniker, “Junkyard Dog,” for his determination in tackling tough issues and getting resolution. You don’t want to mess with Earl, and the industry is far better off for it. Not everyone agreed with him all the time. (Some will acknowledge that as a huge understatement.) Nevertheless, Earl’s goals have always been what he believes were the best for California cotton.
His leadership has produced some monumental victories, not the least of which was winning ag electric rates for cotton gins. Leading the charge to keep sticky California cotton off the market is another.
However, Earl’s largest victory was the repeal of the tractor and fuel taxes for farmers. It is a legacy shared by many in a group called the ag presidents council. It was cobbled together by Sacramento attorney and Hanford, Calif., dairyman George Soares, who represents many agricultural groups in Sacramento.
For years, agriculture has been ignored or at best simply tolerated in Sacramento. Agriculture groups like the California Farm Bureau Federation have for decades bemoaned California agriculture’s political fate in an urban state by telling farmers they had little clout and don’t expect much from California legislators.