Staplcotn President and CEO Meredith Allen has completed his first year leading the nation’s oldest cotton marketing cooperative which he says has been “Challenging, to say the least!”
Allen, 59, took the reins of Staplcotn and Stapldiscount in September 2010, as Woods Eastland, with whom he had worked for more than 24 years, transitioned to board chairman.
“It did seem strange the first few weeks (working without Woods), but soon I was so busy that I didn’t have time to think about it. Woods is an active board chairman, and we communicate very well due to our years of working together,” Allen said.
Allen joined the company in 1985 as head of the domestic sales department. He has previously worked at his family’s farm in Sunflower County and then served as vice president of marketing for V&M Cotton Company, which later became ContiCotton. In 1986, Allen was promoted to vice president of marketing at Staplcotn and then promoted to executive vice president in 2008.
“When I accepted the job at Staplcotn, I planned on being here for a long time. Obviously, I didn’t know I would end up being CEO,” he said.
Allen brings more than 35 years of cotton trading experience to the job and continues to manage the Staplcotn marketing team.
He said this past year has been challenging because of the extreme volatility of the cotton market.
Staplcotn has been “hedging cotton in the wildest futures market in history. Historically, the cotton futures market moves in a 20-cent per pound range in a year. This year the market moved $1.50 per pound, or more than 7 times normal. This had never been seen by anyone in our business or even contemplated. Although stress levels here were off the chart, we navigated through it well and ended up having a successful year. … There is no typical day in this business. We have to be extremely flexible in our strategies because one never knows what the market may dictate.”
The goals of the company remain unchanged: “Our goals basically are always the same. We want the grower that Stapldiscount finances to have a very competitive interest rate and our warehouse operations to be very cost-effective and service-oriented. We remain one of the leading cotton suppliers to the world textile industry and certainly want to continue that. Finally, we want to return to our producers the highest price possible for their cotton.”
Stapldiscount is a wholly owned subsidiary of Staplcotn and offers agricultural financing in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Formed in 1921 with the name Staple Cotton Cooperative Association, Staplcotn was a response to marketing problems experienced by Mississippi Delta cotton farmers. The Greenwood-based company comes in at No. 3 on this year’s Top 100 list with more than $932 million in revenues.
Staplcotn is still the largest U.S. cotton marketing cooperative in terms of volume shipped directly to textile mills. The company has more than 13,000 farm accounts in the Mid-south and Southeast and a warehousing operation with 14 locations in four states. It sells about one-half of its volume in the United States, which makes up about one-third of the U.S. supply. The other half of Staplcotn’s bales are exported to more than 20 countries, such as China, Mexico, Turkey, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Allen serves as vice president of the National Cotton Council; director of Delta Council; member of the Cotton Committee of the National Council of Textile Organizations; and board member of The Seam, LLC. From January 2003 to January 2009 he served as a board member and chairman of the Memphis Branch Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and is past president and past chairman of Cotton Council International.
Allen is married to Margaret Capps Allen and enjoys hunting and boating.
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