The U.S. cotton industry has never had to worry much about finding leaders. Leaders have regularly risen through the ranks of farmers — well-versed and respected, knowledgeable of the concerns of the individual grower and comfortable in the spotlight.

The cotton industry still has a claim to fine leadership, although the pool of leaders is shrinking as the number of cotton producers declines. Each year, the National Cotton Council helps alleviate this shortage by identifying potential leaders and putting them through a rigorous short course that places them on a fast track to leadership.

Do you know someone who has what it takes? Industry members interested in applying to or nominating someone for the 2007-2008 Cotton Leadership Class—the 25th since the program’s inception—are encouraged to visit http://leadership.cotton.org.

That site contains program curriculum, eligibility requirements and a downloadable application. Applicants or nominators also may contact the National Cotton Council’s member services at 901-274-9030 or their local member services representative for additional information.

Deadline for application submission is July 2.

Participants receive training during five week-long sessions across the Cotton Belt. The class, comprised of four producers and a participant from each of the other six industry segments, interacts with industry leaders and visits farms, processing operations and research facilities. They also meet with lawmakers and government agency representatives during a visit to Washington, DC, and attend the NCC’s annual meeting and its mid-year board of directors meeting.

The class also spends a week with John Maguire, the Council’s senior vice-president, Washington operations to understand the legislative process and how the Council works to implement legislation and represent the industry.

The Leadership Development Committee, which consists of former Council chairmen, officers and directors, will select the class based on their review of the applications. According to John Gibson, the Council’s director of member services, the selection is normally made in mid- to late-July.

The program is supported by a grant to The Cotton Foundation from DuPont Crop Protection.

To be eligible candidates must:

• Derive their primary livelihood from one of the U.S. cotton industry’s seven segments – producer, ginner, warehouseman, cottonseed, merchant, cooperative or textile manufacturer.

• Be between the ages of 27 and 47 on or before July 1, 2007.

• Have employer approval, or if self-employed, demonstrate that time away from their business will not be a handicap.

• Agree to attend all sessions (approximately 35 days of travel), except in time of illness or family emergency. All sessions are planned in accordance with the program curriculum. Agree to complete all required reports and evaluations in a timely manner.

e-mail: erobinson@farmpress.com