, 23 tweets, 11 min read Read on Twitter
Let's talk about... cotton!

You may think of cotton as a product of Alabama's past, when slavery and, later, sharecropping provided the intense labor that was needed for cotton production.

But Alabamians still grow cotton for buyers around the world!
Nick McMichen's family has been growing cotton in Cherokee County outside Centre for generations, going back to sharecroppers in the late 19th century.

“Cotton is more than a crop,” McMichen said. “Around here, it’s part of us."
Jerry Newby’s family goes back even further. He is the seventh generation to grow cotton on his family farm in Limestone County.

Jerry, along with family members Jimmy, James. John and Elizabeth, works about 3,500 acres of cotton spanning 50 miles.

His family farms grow cotton used in Wrangler's Rooted Collection — special Alabama slim fit jeans, featuring an Alabama patch and a button embossed with the state’s outline

The cotton comes from the Newby family’s farm outside Athens. al.com/business/2019/…
Among the state's cash agricultural products, cotton now ranks 4th behind broiler chickens, cattle and eggs.

Alabama is still one of the top 10 cotton producing states, ranking around sixth in acreage and 10th in production, @billineastala reports: al.com/business/2019/…
During the Great Recession, cotton plantings went down as other crops briefly became more attractive to farmers. That quickly changed though, once demand returned. And it's being used in innovative ways. al.com/business/2019/…
The fabric can be made more water resistant, with brands such as Under Armour’s Charged Cotton, and Nike’s Dri-Fit Cotton. al.com/business/2019/…
But there are some challenges facing Alabama's cotton farmers. Cotton leafroll dwarf virus was spotted in Barbour County two years ago and has so far been detected in 24 counties, according to the Auburn University Plant Diagnostic Lab. al.com/business/2019/…
The virus is transmitted by cotton aphids and can be passed in less than a minute.

It’s believed to be a strain of cotton blue disease, which has been showing up in crops worldwide since 1949.
In Alabama, the virus has primarily affected late planted cotton, stunting growth and causing leaf rolling, vein reddening, distorted leaves, reduced flower and boll size and sterility. Some affected plants assume a “Christmas tree” shape.
How big a problem is it? Retired professor Austin Hagan said that is still unclear.

“It depends on how much virus is out there in the background, the susceptibility of the cotton varieties out there,” he said. “We’re still learning." al.com/business/2019/…
Hagan said growers should be aware of the virus, scout their cotton and report anything usual to the extension service.

“We’re already looking at procedures that could be employed to manage the disease,” he said. al.com/business/2019/…
There's also another problem affecting some small business owners who sell goods made from Alabama cotton — some people are not happy with Alabama due to the new abortion ban the state passed, and they're punishing Alabama makers.

“The backlash was really soon after the law passed, almost instantly, and I think it’s because we so heavily use ‘Made in Alabama’ in our ad campaigns,” said Gina Locklear, founder of zkano and Little River Sock Mill.

Shoppers from California had been the company’s highest revenue source, followed by those in Alabama.

She said sales are now down about 20 percent. When she sent out zkano’s monthly newsletter at the end of May, hundreds unsubscribed, she said. al.com/news/2019/07/a…
“I’ve spent 10 hard years building this business,” Locklear told reporter @billineastala. “We all work really hard here. Boycotting a small woman-owned business that employs mostly women who are the breadwinners for their families, that’s not the answer.”
Anna Brakefield and her father, Mark Yeager, own Red Land Cotton, which sells sustainable home linens made from the cotton grown and processed on their family farm near Bankhead National Forest.

Brakefield said they've also experienced a backlash. al.com/news/2019/07/a…
“I thought maybe we wouldn’t get as many orders, or maybe we’d get a few hateful comments online," Brakefield says.

“I wasn’t prepared for the real hatefulness of it." al.com/news/2019/07/a…
A few weeks after the law passed, Brakefield was in NY working a booth at the Country Living Fair.

“We had several people literally pick up our products, drop them on the ground, and walk away saying, ‘I hope you never have to get an abortion, I hope you know what you’ve done.’”
You can read plenty more about cotton in Alabama in this series by @billineastala. We'll link to the individual articles in the tweets below — there's a ton we couldn't include in this thread.
Cotton, once king in Alabama, still rules on these family farms:


Alabama cotton figures in crop’s resurgence: al.com/business/2019/…
How Alabama cotton farmers cope with incurable virus: al.com/business/2019/…

After the abortion ban and #BoycottAlabama, small businesses struggle to find ‘a new normal’: al.com/news/2019/07/a…
CORRECTION: @acvollers wrote the boycott story, not @billineastala. Sorry about the confusion.

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