Ask most cotton producers what they're looking for in 2001, and they will tell you they are seeking better varieties, lower-cost inputs, higher fiber quality and help with marketing.

That happens to be what a group of noted speakers will be discussing during the first two days of the Beltwide Cotton Production Conferences at the Marriott Hotel in Anaheim, Calif., Jan. 10-11.

Beltwide planners have lined up some of the "best and the brightest" to address those issues during the conference, which is sponsored annually by the National Cotton Council of America.

"We know these are difficult times for many cotton producers," said Robert E. McLendon, Council president who will deliver the opening address at the conference. "We also know farmers need help addressing these issues, and we believe these discussions will help."

First up on the conference agenda will be an in-depth discussion on cotton variety improvement that will feature producer, cotton breeder, biotechnology, seed company and manufacturer experts.

The session will address such questions as how the cotton industry can insure that needed varieties are in the pipeline; what new developments are needed to facilitate bringing needed varieties to market; and how growers can work with researchers to enhance progress on new varieties.

Speakers include: Jack Hamilton, former NCC president and producer from Lake Providence, La.; Stephen R. Oakley, California Cotton Seed Distributors, Shafter, Calif.; Roy G. Cantrell, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces; Frederick J. Perlak, Monsanto Co., St. Louis, Mo.; Thomas F. Hughes, Stoneville Pedigreed Seed Co., Memphis, Tenn.; Jane K. Dever, Aventis, Collierville, Tenn.; Thomas A. Kerby, Delta and Pine Land Co., Scott, Miss.; and G. Stephen Felker, Avondale Mills, Monroe, Ga.

As with each of the sessions, the Cotton Variety Improvement panel will end with a discussion with the audience.

Next up will be a panel discussion entitled "Technology's Role in Least-Cost Cotton Systems."

It will feature presentations by growers from each region of the Cotton Belt who are using new technology to make a difference in their bottom line. Also on the panel will be two Extension experts and a veteran ginner.

Speakers include: Producers Ted D. Sheely, Lemoore, Calif.; Ken Van Loben Sels, Los Banos, Calif.; Mark Williams, Farwell, Texas; Kenneth B. Hood, Gunnison, Miss.; and Joseph Boddiford, Sylvania, Ga. The Extension specialists are James J. Marois and David L. Wright of the University of Florida, and the ginner is Jimmy N. Roppolo, Farmer's Coop Gin, El Campo, Texas.

The third panel, which is scheduled for the conference's second day, Jan. 11, will feature discussions by producers, manufacturers, ginners and USDA representatives on what can be done to improve fiber quality for the benefit of the entire cotton industry.

Speakers include: D. Harding Stowe, R.L. Stowe Mills, Belmont, N.C.; producers Wiley Murphy, Tucson, Ariz.; Eddie Smith, Floydada, Texas; Larry R. McClendon, Marianna, Ark.; and Louie Perry, Jr., Moultrie, Ga. The ginners are Michael B. Hooper, Farmers Coop Gin, Buttonwillow, Calif., and Van F. Murphy, BCT Gin Co., Quitman, Ga. David McAlister of Clemson, S.C., will represent USDA.

The fourth session will feature speakers from across the supply chain, addressing the subject of trends in cotton marketing. Representatives of cooperatives, traditional merchandising firms and companies involved in new marketing directions will speak.

Speakers include: Bruce Groefsema, Calcot, Bakersfield, Calif.; Ernst D. Schroeder, Jess Smith & Sons Cotton, Bakersfield, Calif.; Edward J. Price, Harvey-Price Cotton Co., Kinston, N.C.; Robert S. Weil II, Weil Brothers Cotton Co., Montgomery, Ala.; and John Mitchell, Hohenberg, Memphis, Tenn.

Groefsema will speak on the cooperative's role in marketing; Schroeder on the traditional merchant role; Price, on gin pools and gin direct marketing; Weil on the managed merchant pool; and Mitchell on the variety pool (for Fibermax). Dan P. Logan Jr., of Gilliam, La., will give the producer's perspective.

Following their speeches, cotton merchant William B. Dunavant Jr., will give his traditional presentation on his insights in the marketplace.

For more information on the Beltwide Cotton Production Conference and the 13 Technical Conferences that follow on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 12 and 13, contact the National Cotton Council at 901 274-9030 or log on to the NCC website at www.cotton.org.