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January 31, 2024
Gary Bailey has worked in cotton most of his life. He started out by scouting cotton. After graduating from Mississippi State University, he sold cottonseed. In 1999, he married into a cotton farming family and in 2004 he joined the family operation to farm full-time.
The operation also included a cotton gin and for several years Bailey was content to send his cotton to the gin and let them handle that part of the operation.
Something changed around 2012. He started spending more time with his father-in-law, Brad Cobb, at the family owned Three Way Gin, in Tunica. The more time he spent at the gin, the more fascinated he became with the process and increased his knowledge and activity at the facility.
In 2020, Bailey took over the management of the gin when Cobb decided to back away from managing the operation. Cobb still has minor ownership in the gin with Bailey and Tunica farmer Patrick Johnson having majority ownership. Bailey is there to oversee the gin as it runs during harvest season.
It is through the ginning operation that Bailey became active in the Southern Cotton Ginners Association. He saw how valuable the organization was for ginners. The ginners united to help serve the industry collectively, addressing issues facing all those in the business.
Over the years, Bailey served in association leadership and rose to the position of president of the organization in 2023. The year was busy, as well as exciting, but what he is walking away with is an appreciation for those who allowed him to serve the organization.
“There is so much valuable information within the organization that you don’t have access to until you get involved,” he said. “At the end of the day, I have learned countless things – what to do and what not to do. I was, and am, able to learn from my peers within the association. What I learned was a huge asset for our gin and the industry at large.”
Bailey noted that the summer meeting for the association was a great success.
“Our summer meeting in Muscle Shoals, Ala., was phenomenal,” he said. “We had a group from Australia come and speak about farming, consulting and ginning cotton in Australia.”
One of the high points was the discussion by the Australians regarding energy use.
“They are able to run gins with solar power out there,” he said. “Which is pretty amazing.”
He is also proud that he attended all the district meetings the association has each summer.
“I was glad to be able to make all the district meetings except for the very last one, which was in Jackson, Tenn.,” he said. “I didn't make it due to the fact that we were in full on irrigation on the farm. I met a lot of people in July on that tour. That was a lot of fun and got is into the country to see where everyone gins.”
One issue that has been up for discussion within the ginning industry for some time is small seed size. Smaller seed is harder to capture with current ginning techniques and as seed gets smaller, less volume means less value for the gin.
“We'd love to work on having more of a correlation with the best of both worlds – high lint yield and larger seed size,” he said. “We’ve had some varieties that were doing both and we appreciate that effort by the seed breeders.”
Labor is always a issue that the ginner association is following.
“We all face labor issues,” he said. “Being able to work through that with other gins and have conversations with the rest of the board about labor costs and solutions to the situation is much better that working on it alone.”
From getting enough qualified seasonal labor, to OSHA regulations, to managing H2A works, the organization addresses all labor issues to find solutions or help on the issues.
A huge plus for the organization is its staff, according to Bailey.
“Tim Price, I’ve got to take my hat off to Tim and his staff,” Bailey said. “What a fantastic job he does serving as the executive director for Southern Cotton General Association. He makes it a lot less difficult than what it could be.”
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