The week of Jan. 6 started with a frosty nip for the U.S. cotton industry as about 1,300 individuals with deep-woven passions for natural fiber gathered, or tried to, in New Orleans, La. for the 2014 Beltwide Cotton Conferences.

Mother Nature unleashed frigid temperatures and icy gridlock which snarled many parts of the nation. The weather delayed or cancelled flights nationwide, including those for some cotton aficionados headed to the Crescent City.

One scientist I talked with had just arrived at the hotel. With white-knuckled hands and a pale stare, he detailed his 15-hour stressful day of cancelled flights and delays. His rides on knee-crunching airplane seats (tall folks can relate) included stops in Phoenix, Albuquerque, the frozen Midwest tundra, Dallas, and finally Nawlins.

Despite the chilly Beltwide start, the ensuing conference cotton chatter over the next few days generated consensus that the short-term outlook for cotton is positive.  This is despite China, the 500-pound gorilla in the global cotton industry, and its government stockpiles of cotton which have U.S. cotton standing on shaky bales.

Yet as grain prices have fallen recently, talk at Beltwide suggested more cotton acreage in the Cotton Belt overall this year to the delight of the ginners, cotton consultants, chemical companies, and others in attendance.

One of the most inspiring moments at Beltwide was Farm Press’ 20th annual High Cotton Awards breakfast. The editors of Farm Press’ four regional magazines presented their coveted bronze cotton boll award to a successful cotton producer and environmental steward from their respective areas.

Western Farm Press’ winner Clyde Sharp of Roll, Ariz. humbly accepted the award from this editor. Sharp said cotton farming is a team effort, including his wife Vicky of 49 years and Clyde’s brother and farm partner David.

The other winners also tugged at the heart strings, saying that farming is truly a family affair where each one pulls the other through thick and thin over the long haul. This exemplifies what a strong family unit is all about.

Farmers are the most amazing people I’ve ever met. It’s an honor and a privilege to write about their many trials and tribulations on the Western Farm Press website and in the WFP magazine.