Cotton producer Fred Starrh has never been one to hide his feelings.

So when the 2004 Far West High Cotton winner accepted his award at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences, he didn't mince any words about his feelings about the “environmental movement.”

Starrh said his son, Fred, had pulled an article off the Internet that was taken from a speech given by Michael Crichton, the novelist. The article dealt with what Crichton calls the “Religion of Environmentalism.”

“The religion of environmentalism, as I see it, is a regressive form of environmentalism,” Starrh told the 250 persons who attended a breakfast honoring the winners from each of the four regions of the Cotton Belt. The High Cotton program is sponsored by Farm Press Publications through a grant to The Cotton Foundation.

Co-sponsors of this year's awards were John Deere Co., Delta and Pine Land Co., Helena Chemical Co., Syngenta Crop Protection and U.S. Borax Inc.

“This is the environmental movement that says ‘don't build dams, don't build new canals, don't do anything to interfere with nature,” he said. “In fact, let's take it back to earlier days at all costs. People? People can go. Forests can go — 700,000 acres of land can be destroyed. Rockslides can ensue after that.

“This is happening in our state every day and in other parts of the country. Don't burn wood in your fireplace. Don't do this and don't do that.”

But there's another form of religion that Starrh would like to see prevail in this ongoing struggle over the fate of the planet.

Another form

“I see Christianity and the basic tenets of our country as another form of environmentalism, what I call a true environmental concerns. It's a dual form, and it says we're concerned, we want to do it right, but we're going to make some money doing it. We're going to provide jobs. We're going to do all these other things, and we're not going to stop the world. We're not going back; we're going forward. To me that's what it's all about.”

Like the other winners, Starrh shared his award with family members, including his wife, Nancy; his two sons, Fred Jr. and Larry; daughters, Carol Kroeker, and her husband, Jay; and Ann Ashley.

He also thanked members of the University of California Extension Service and scientists with the USDA Agricultural Research Service for their assistance through the years.

Ernest Bippert, the 2004 High Cotton winner from the Southwest, thanked his family members, including his mother, who is 87 and still lives on their farm near Kingsville, Texas, and his mother-in-law, who also lives on the farm.

He expressed appreciation to Robert Schmitt, a longtime friend who persuaded him to try conservation tillage on his farm, and to members of the local Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency staffs, who have assisted his operation through the years.

“Last but not least, we are thankful to our God Almighty, who has provided all things for us. I thank him for placing me in Texas, in the United States of America and in this free country,” he said. “And I think him for placing me on the farm and guiding us through some real lean times.

Excited about future

“We are real excited about the future in agriculture. In fact, I think I've been more excited in the last couple of years than I've ever been in my life.”

Coyt Hendon, winner from the Delta region for 2004, said he couldn't farm without his wife, Charlsie, and other family members.

“The last 20 years have been a roller coaster, but I'm looking forward to the next 20,” said Hendon, who farms near Indianola, Miss.

Billy Sanders, the winner for the Southeast Region for 2004, said he wasn't accustomed to public speaking, but he wanted to thank his wife, Earlene, and family members and friends who have helped him through the years.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com