What is in this article?:
- Clyde Sharp, Roll, Ariz., is the winner of the 2014 Western Farm Press High Cotton Award.
- Sharp is a highly successful cotton grower, environmental steward, and national cotton industry leader.
- The Sharp family grows Upland cotton, alfalfa, wheat, onions, and Sudangrass in the Arizona low desert.
Pink bollworm battle
Notably absent from the insect list is the destructive pink bollworm, once the top pest threat for Arizona cotton growers. And this is where this story gets more interesting.
Sharp and others have championed efforts to eradicate the ‘pinkie’ in the West and Southwest.
In 1998, an Arizona referendum to launch PBW eradication was defeated by growers.
By the mid-2000s, Arizona cotton leaders reorganized and launched a second campaign to put the pinkie in the eradication crosshairs. Sharp, Rick Lavis, the ACRPC (the statutory authority to carry out the eradication program) led by Larry Antilla, and others lobbied hard to pass the second referendum.
The guts of the program would include Bt cotton, sterile insect technology against native pinkies, pheromone rope, and traps. Also critical to passage was for Mexico to fully participate in the program, including the related costs.
“We guaranteed Arizona cotton growers we would not conduct the eradication program unless Mexico agreed to fully participate, which they did,” Sharp says.
Growers were asked to grow Bt cotton, with the ACRPC taking care of spraying and suppressing the insect thorough grower-authorized funding.
In 2004, Arizona cotton growers passed the referendum by a 77-percent yes vote — more than the two-thirds required for passage. Moving forward, growers planted 98-percent Bt cotton.
From 2007-2009, Sharp served as the ACRPC chair. He and Antilla launched the eradication program in one cotton region at a time. The guarantee to growers was to complete the assessment phase of the program in four years in each region.
Accomplishing the goal was far from easy. Several growers attended eradication meetings and voiced opposition. But, says Sharp, “Those same growers have come to me over the last several years, congratulated me, and thanked me for pushing eradication.”
“Clyde was one who wouldn’t take no for an answer,” says Antilla, now retired. “His aggressive, but positive, leadership skills and tenacity helped move the eradication program forward.”
Today, PBW program operations continue by the council under the leadership of the ACRPC’s new director, Leighton Liesner. The last native pinkie found in Arizona was in May 2012.
The eradication effort was successful due to the tireless dedication of many cotton leaders, including Sharp.
“As the ACGA president, I championed eradication of the pink bollworm,” he says. “I made that known to growers when I took office, and I worked hard to accomplish that goal.”
Today, California, Arizona, New Mexico, west Texas, and northern Mexico are very close to official PBW eradication. Three to four years must pass from the last native pinkie find before official state eradication status can be declared.
“This makes me feel great,” Sharp says. “It’s a huge sense of accomplishment.’
Switching gears to federal farm policy, he has played a vital role in helping the National Cotton Council draft and garner support for a new cotton provision in the law. He has helped the industry navigate through important farm bill issues under an abbreviated time frame, says Craig Brown, NCC vice president of producer affairs.
“Clyde has demonstrated great leadership during this important process, and has been a good consensus builder at a very important time — he has done a great job,” Brown says.
Farm Press congratulates Clyde and his family on their High Cotton award.