Ellsworth notes that Heiden was a leader in helping the industry move through technology changes, including Bt cotton, which was first grown commercially in Arizona. He was instrumental in getting new insect growth regulators registered to turn back the whitefly, a pest Heiden sats was the most devastating insect to plague Arizona cotton producers.

“Bruce was an early adopter of many of the key innovations that have moved production forward,” says Ellsworth.

Larry Antilla, director of the Arizona Cotton Research and Production Council, calls Heiden “one of the real stalwarts of the industry — if anyone deserves the High Cotton Award, it is Bruce Heiden.

“He is an absolute gentleman, a class act, one of the finest people I’ve ever known, and one of the best growers in the state. He has always had the best interests of the cotton industry foremost in his mind.”

Rick Lavis, executive director of the Arizona Cotton Growers Association uses three words to describe Heiden: quiet, calm, and leadership.

“In the 30 years I have known him, Bruce has always been the foundation of sound decisions within the Arizona Cotton Growers Association. He listens carefully, takes other viewpoints into consideration and is able to articulate the right decision and the right approach.”

Heiden served as National Cotton Council president during a federal farm bill renewal period, and Lavis recalls that he was a “very effective agent” in working with the seven Council segments to create a unified cotton position on the legislation.

Ted Pierce, the 1998 Far West High Cotton award winner, grew up in Buckeye with Heiden.

“As president of the National Cotton Council and chairman of the Calcot board, Bruce was a consensus builder. Bruce Heiden and Bill Scott are the two stalwarts of the Arizona cotton industry.”

Like Heiden, Scott has farmed in Arizona for more than 50 years. They have collaborated on many challenging issues that have faced the industry over the years.

“Bruce is a statesman and an excellent farmer,” says Scott, who is at Stanfield and is Heiden’s good friend. “He has demonstrated those qualities repeatedly when contentious issues are deliberated. Bruce is invariably the last one to speak  — he sits back, thinks the issue through and then expresses his opinion. I’ve never known him to fail to be on target.”

As a long-time Calcot director and later the cooperative’s first chairman from Arizona, Heiden is well respected by his California peers.

John Pucheu, Tranquillity, Calif., cotton producer, has known Heiden since the mid-1980s and has also served as NCC president and Calcot chairman.

“Bruce is an outstanding person and super farmer,” he says. “He is totally dedicated to this industry.”

“It has been a pleasure working with Bruce,” says Kern County, Calif., cotton producer Charlie Fanucchi, immediate past chairman of Calcot’s board. “He is a totally honest person, soft spoken. But when he speaks people listen.”

Heiden and wife Helen’s four children — sons, Art, Les and Hal, and daughter Holly — grew up on the farm, and they continue as partners. Les’ two sons, Paul and Richard, have also joined the operation.