Posted on January 3, 2012
Mike Tate, 2011 Cotton Grower Achievement Award

Mike Tate, 2011 Cotton Grower Achievement Award

We are always happy to see when some of our members are recognized for their accomplishments and this year is no exception. January of 2012 brought to the limelight four members and it is only fitting that we share their achievements (and publicity) with our readership. Mike Tate, 2011 Cotton Grower Achievement Award The New Year began with the announcement on the cover of the January issue of Cotton Grower magazine that Mike Tate of Meridianville, Alabama, was the recipient of their 2011 Cotton Grower Achievement Award. This is not the first time that Mike and his family have been featured in a publication. When he was newly elected to Staplcotn’s board of directors, StaplReview (Winter, 2004) reported on his farming operation, which included not only his robust cotton crop, but his highly popular pumpkin farm that attracts visitors from all around during the fall of every year.

It is no surprise that Mike received such an honor. In addition to Staplcotn’s board, Mike is president and director of Cotton Growers Cooperative Gin and Warehouse in New Market, Alabama. He is a graduate of the National Cotton Council’s Cotton Leadership program and has served on several NCC committees. Mike serves as an NCC delegate and is chairman of their Environmental Task Force. He has been an Alabama chairman of NCC’s American Cotton Producers and is a director for Cotton Incorporated. He is also the incoming president of the Southern Cotton Growers, member of the Madison County Farmers Federation, the Alabama Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation and is vice chairman of the state cotton committee of the Alabama Farmers Federation.

Cotton Grower magazine quoted Craig Brown, vice president of producer affairs for the NCC as saying, “Mike is an outstanding leader. He comes from a family with a very rich cotton tradition. He’s served in many Cotton Council positions, including being a member of the ACP (American Cotton Producers). That’s the group that tackles some of the really difficult issues within the cotton industry; a wide range of issues from pesticide registrations to clean water, clean air, and endangered species. It’s a very important committee.” Craig also remarked, “He’s an officer of the Southern Cotton Growers, and he’s in line to be president, which is a very prestigious position. Mike has answered every call that we’ve made and is very deserving of the award.” Other notable cotton industry representatives including David Ruppenicker, of Southern Cotton Growers Association and Southeastern Ginners Association, and Monty Bain of the Cotton Board, had equally positive remarks about Mike’s honor.

Mike responded, “I want to say this: I’m involved in all these organizations and these guys (referring to his family – Homer, his father; Steve and Jeff, his brothers; and his cousin, Pat Brown) allow me to spend time doing that. We have employees that have been with us a number of years and they know what we’re doing as much as we do. That’s a real benefit for us, and we feel very fortunate to have them.”

It’s also worth noting that in the same issue of Cotton Grower that featured Mike Tate, two other Staplcotn members were highlighted in the Grower Profile section on Production. Mark Kimmel and his father-in-law David Branham were given a two-page review titled “Flying Into Cotton”. They have worked together since 1986 in Itta Bena, Mississippi, when Mark started flying for David’s service “Dixie Dusters” as well as farming on the family land.

The article showcases their farm’s irrigation systems, rotation practices, herbicide usage among other interesting topics. Of special note, it reviews how both businesses were affected by the dip in the cotton market a few years back but were able to hold strong. They opted to cut back their cotton acres but continued to plant cotton on their premium land. In the article Mark commented, “We were making money on cotton and we never stopped making money on cotton. I kept my infrastructure in place on this farm and now that cotton is back, we just flowed right back into it and increased our acres.” Although their flying service also realized a significant reduction in cotton acreage, their gross continued to increase due to people spending more money on corn and beans. Mark explained, “We never faltered at the flying service, which was amazing. We have one plane, and that’s the way I want it. We could get bigger, but we’re full and I don’t want any more.”

Coley Bailey, Jr., 2012 High Cotton Award Winner - Delta Region

Coley Bailey, Jr., 2012 High Cotton Award Winner – Delta Region

Coley Bailey, Jr. of Coffeeville, Mississippi, farms 3,350 acres of cotton with his father and Staplcotn Director, Coley Bailey, Sr., in Yalobusha and Grenada counties of Mississippi. In fact, one of the farms that includes 900 acres just north of Grenada, Mississippi, was once owned by James K. Polk, the 11th U.S. President.

According to Delta Farm Press, Coley Jr. “choreographs the entire picking operation from start to finish” making his farming techniques most noteworthy in the category of efficiency. They strive for a one-minute or less picker dump while still on the row. They are known to tarp 24 modules a day with three pickers, three boll buggies and two builders.

As producers of predominantly dry-land cotton, one of their objectives is to insure that no water on the farm is wasted. They accomplish this with no-till, a wheat cover crop and various conservation projects. Coley Jr. said that he discovered the benefits of wheat cover by accident. To combat some highly erodible land in 1998, Coley Jr. took the advice of a Natural Resources Conservation Service rep and planted a cover crop in order to get back in compliance. After he’d killed the wheat and started planting cotton, he thought he had made a big mistake. “We couldn’t see the row because of the wheat stubble, but, five days later, the cotton was up, and in two weeks it looked better than the rest of my cotton. At harvest, the cotton that had been wheat cover picked 1,100 pounds and the cotton right next to it picked 950 pounds.” He explained that another advantage of the wheat cover crop is that they have a lot more water-holding capacity. “Earthworms leave tunnels in the ground, and when the wheat roots decay after we spray Roundup, all those channels seem to hold water,” he explained.

Another environmentally friendly part of their farming operation is that they have an agreement with a paper mill in Grenada, Mississippi to take their ash from the paper production process and apply it to their land. This provides all of the farm’s fertility needs, except for nitrogen. Coley Jr. commented, “It has been a win/win situation for the paper mill and for us, and it really has been a blessing in weathering high fertilizer prices.” He explained that it took two years, involved getting the Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency involved to test the soils and to perform other tests, but 7,500 tons of ash per year is now providing fertility for their crops as opposed to going into landfills.

Coley Bailey Sr. commented proudly about his son’s abilities. “He’s a great networker. There is a network of young farmers around who are more willing to share information and ideas than in my generation. He and his wife, Jody, who is a strong part of his partnership, are very attuned to that–more so than I ever was.” Information and photos provided for this article are courtesy of Cotton Grower magazine and its editor,

Henry Gantz, who wrote the article from which the excerpts about Mike Tate were taken. The information and photos for Coley Bailey, Jr. are courtesy of Delta Farm Press and its director of content, Forrest Laws.