Calcot terminates Farley as co-op's president and CEO

The Australian hired eight months ago to “shake up” the West's largest cotton marketing cooperative has been fired.

Calcot president and chief executive officer David D. Farley was terminated Monday (June 30), two weeks after the cooperative's board of directors asked for his resignation in meeting in Fresno, Calif.

At that Fresno meeting, Calcot directors determined “it was not in the cotton marketing cooperative's best interests” to retain Farley, 46, as CEO of the 76-year-old cotton company, and gave him the option to resign or be terminated.

The Australian native indicated he would resign, but did not submit his resignation by a June 20 deadline. The deadline was extended to June 27, but that too came and went without a resignation.

Consequently, according to Calcot legal counsel Robert Dowd of Hanford, Farley was terminated.

Currently serving as interim president and CEO is Robert W. Norris, previously Calcot's executive vice president and a 30-year employee of the company. Norris along with former Calcot vice president Bruce Groefsema were candidates to replace now retired Calcot president Tom Smith when the board of directors of the Bakersfield, Calif.-based Calcot surprised everyone in the industry in selecting the 45-year-old Australian.

Groefsema favored

Groefsema, the odds on favorite to replace Smith, is now vice president of Weil Brothers' western operations as the exclusive marketing arm for the San Joaquin Valley Quality Cotton Growers Association.

Many of the largest, most influential Calcot and San Joaquin Valley producers signed out of the cooperative when Farley was hired to go with Groefsema and the quality cotton growers association.

Farley's termination comes just two months before the end of the 2002-03 marketing year and does not bode well for the cooperative, which suffered from an embarrassing advance overpayment growers were require to repay before Farley took over. A poor marketing performance report in September could prompt widespread sign-outs from the cooperative.

Farley's often brash management style and demeanor was in sharp contrast to Smith. Many called him a breath of fresh air. Others likened him to a carnival barker and his firing was not a big surprise to those.

Industry observes said Farley's firing will have an unsettling effect on all Western cotton producers since Calcot annually markets over a million bales of Far Western cotton for its 1,700 members and has been considered a stable marketing outlet for California and Arizona cotton.

“Unfortunately, I think you will see a negative fallout from this in world markets for California and Arizona cotton,” said one industry leader.

The decision to hire and then in less than a year fire the controversial Farley will have mills questioning the management of Calcot by its grower board. Farley's firing is the second major strike against Calcot in less than five years. A third strike could take Calcot out, according to some.

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