In a continuing effort to enhance the image of U.S. cotton as being the world leader in quality, a move is under way to clearly identify bales of U.S. origin with a distinctive logo.
“This recommendation was adopted by the National Cotton Council during the Memphis board meeting of the National Cotton Ginners Association,” says Levin D. Lynch, NCGA president who spoke at the annual meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association held in conjunction with the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show.
“The recommendation is to promote the design and use — on a voluntary basis — of an exclusive U.S. cotton logo for cotton bales that will visually distinguish U.S.-grown and ginned cotton from other cotton growths in domestic and foreign markets,” he says.
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Lynch, a South Carolina grower/ginner who is also president of the Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association, says the idea came about as a result of a trip last year’s NCGA president Dwayne Alford made to China.
“They had the opportunity to see several warehouses containing an assortment of cotton bales from various countries, and noted that several countries had neatly packaged bales with their country’s logo printed on the bale packaging materials.”
While it’s unlikely that the U.S. industry will agree on one type of bale packaging material, Lynch says, a discussion was begun on developing a distinctive logo to include on bales grown and ginned in the U.S.
“While this has been discussed in the past,” he says, “there was no policy in place to pursue the idea, and with the adoption of the National Cotton Council language, there now is. If we as ginners do our part in creating Grade A bales, then we shouldn’t hesitate in wanting our bales to clearly show they were grown and ginned in the U.S.”
Contamination of cotton, mostly the result of plastic materials, continues to be a concern for the industry, Lynch says.
“We are very concerned that our reputation for having among the cleanest cotton in the world could be seriously damaged if we don’t make every effort to eliminate all forms of plastic contamination.”
Studies indicate, he says, that thinner plastics, such as shopping bags and black mulching material, are more likely to make it through the ginning process and into the bale. “These materials pose the greatest threats to yarn production."
Handling round modules
During the past two years, Lynch says, efforts have been initiated to train gin employees on proper removal of wrappers from round bales. “As the popularity of the John Deere round module picker continues to grow, and gins continue to purchase equipment and make modifications to unwrap round modules, we need to be sure this is done correctly — and safely.”
To support the effort, he says, NCGA has produced a video on round module handling procedures and safety measures.
The widespread adoption of round modules has also resulted in more of the modules being transported on flatbed trailers on Interstate highways, he notes. “During our January Safety and Labor Committee meeting, it was agreed that NCGA should begin developing educational materials for the proper loading and securing of these modules as they are being transported from the farm to the gin.”
NCGA will continue to support research to address quality issues and concerns by the USDA Cotton Ginning Laboratories and Cotton Incorporated, Lynch says.
“At the most recent gin lab review at Mesilla Park, N.M., a number of cotton quality and gin efficiency priorities were identified by ginners, including leaf hairiness, seed coat fragments, seed size, and quality issues that can occur when ginning varieties with these characteristics.
“It’s apparent there is a need for greater cooperation between the ginning segment and cotton breeders in developing varieties. Also, there were discussions on the need for research to develop better methods and equipment to detect and remove contaminants, especially plastic.”
Lynch says the ginning labs “have our commitment that we will continue to work with the National Cotton Council to insure that funding is maintained for these facilities. In the near future, during Congress’ budget and appropriations debate, these labs may need our support in maintaining their funding.”
The ginning industry “continues to be bombarded with new and updated regulations,” he says. “Agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have been especially active, and NCGA has submitted a number of comments on rules proposed by these agencies.
“We are closely monitoring a number of air quality concerns that include the implementation of EPA regulations. We have finalized our sampling project to determine accurate emissions data, and that information is now being used by some states to help in air permitting. In the future, the information will assist gins in meeting state and federal air quality regulations.”
As ginning processes incorporate more technology and more sophisticated procedures, it will be important to have well-trained employees, Lynch says.
“Our ginning schools are continuing to fill the need for competent workers. With the assistance of the USDA and gin equipment manufacturers, our three annual gin schools and the Cotton Ginners Certification Program provide comprehensive, in-depth training, along with the schools’ continuing education curriculum.”
Three Mid-South ginners who have completed the certification program were recognized at the Memphis meeting. They are Michael Branson, Farmers Union Gin, Senath, Mo.; Andrew Duckett, Sandy Ridge Cotton Co., Malden, Mo.; and Josh Maxwell, Tri-Parish Gin, Lettworth, La.