Summary: Three men with broad agricultural backgrounds and wide impact have joined the N.C. Agricultural Hall of Fame. The 2020 class includes Fred N. Colvard, John Holman Cyrus and Marshall Grant – all unanimous selections. The reach of these men’s work has extended well beyond North Carolina’s borders and has provided solutions and improved markets for many farmers and agribusinesses.
I hope listeners have enjoyed learning more about two of the three men who were recently added to the N.C. Agricultural Hall of Fame. I’ve enjoyed talking about each of them and learning more about their considerable contributions.
We plan to have a big celebration of their induction in the future when it makes sense to get together in a large gathering.
This today we will wrap up with Marshall Wood Grant.
I had the pleasure of meeting Marshall [a few/many] years ago and knew about his important work with the cotton industry in North Carolina and the United States.
Marshall Grant’s name will likely forever be linked to cotton, thanks to his vision, drive and leadership in helping establish the Boll Weevil Eradication Program. This is a voluntary assessment program for cotton farmers that monitors, traps and treats cotton fields against the highly destructive boll weevil. It is a program that continues today in the cotton belt of the United States.
David Parrish, who is the chief operating officer of the N.C. Cotton Producers Association, credits Grant’s work to leading “to the eradication of the most destructive pest in the history of cotton, thereby restoring the economic viability of cotton production for generations of farmers.”
To understand the magnitude of the impact of Marshall Grant’s work, let me give you a little background on what cotton production in North Carolina looked like in the 1970s.
North Carolina had seen cotton production drop from a high of almost 2 million acres to around 40,000 acres because of the destruction by the boll weevil.
Grant organized a group to hire cotton scouts and began regional control efforts, but he soon realized that to be effective these efforts would need to be broader to keep the boll weevils from migrating to nearby fields, other regions and other states.
Because you know none of these invasive plants or destructive pests understand property boundaries or state lines.
When the National Cotton Council decided to proceed with a full-scale boll weevil eradication trial, Grant volunteered North Carolina to be a trial location and then traveled extensively across the state helping organize eradication committees and educating producers on the program’s importance and the need for grower funding.
He very often paid for his travel expenses out of his own pocket because he believed so much in this effort. As a farmer, he knew other farmers would be much more likely to listen to him when it came to this program than a program official.
He helped convince farmers that investing in the program would pay off with bigger returns, and he was right.
By starting with a state with fewer acres of cotton production, it allowed organizers to finetune how the program would work. That early trial helped establish the foundation and structure for the Boll Weevil Eradication Program that exists today.
In 1985, North Carolina declared the state boll weevil free and cotton production today has returned to a 500,000-acre level. Today monitoring and trapping of cotton fields continue to ensure any re-emergence of the destructive pest is dealt with quickly.
The economic benefits of the Boll Weevil Eradication Program to producers are estimated at $644 million annually. It is also estimated that 10 million pounds fewer insecticides are used to produce the U.S. cotton crop because of this program.
Cotton producers today owe him a huge debt of gratitude.
Marshall Grant received many, many honors in his lifetime, but I am very proud for him to join this prestigious Hall of Fame group. It is a well-deserved honor for him.
I congratulate the Grant family for Marshall’s inclusion in the N.C. Agricultural Hall of Fame.
Finally, I would like to wrap up this year with the hope and prayer that 2021 will be a kinder year for us all. Happy New Year to you all!