A crowd of 190 recently traveled to the Gaylord Resort in Grapevine, Texas, for the Texas Cotton Ginners Association’s annual summer meeting. Newly elected president Jerry Multer presided over the event, which dealt with issues such as state funding, politics, sales tax exemptions, gins’ ability to handle a record crop this year and regulatory initiatives from OSHA and EPA.
TCGA Executive Vice President Tony Williams says the two sales tax exemptions are crucial for agriculture. The main one deals with “ag valuation,” or property tax based on the value of land’s production.
“Hopefully, we won’t be facing a situation where we will lose any of these important exemptions,” he says. “In the broader situation, we’re also concerned about a projected $18 billion shortfall in the state budget.”
The budget situation could impact the state’s cotton industry. The highly successful Boll Weevil Eradication Program could have a reduction in funding, but Williams says the program can still move forward.
There could also be a reduction in research funding, but not to the level to where it could shut down any existing program.
TCGA members also discussed being able to handle this year’s crop, which potentially could be record-breaking. The largest Texas cotton crop occurred in 2005 when 8.4 million bales were produced, and the second largest was in 2007 when the state delivered 8.2 million bales. Williams says the current crop has received excellent moisture and needs warm temperatures to mature and reach its full potential.
If conditions continue to be favorable, he says the crop could wind up being somewhere between 8 million and 9 million bales. Because Texas ginners had the experience of processing the 2005 and 2007 crops, Williams believes they will be prepared for whatever happens in 2010.
The question isn’t as much about ginners processing a potential record crop. Rather, the more pressing challenge is where the crop will be stored.
“Generally, out in West Texas, you can store the seed inside and outside and take necessary measures to protect it,” Williams says. “But when it comes to cotton bales, we face some challenges. Frankly, I don’t know where we’ll store these bales if it’s a big crop.”
Where Will The Crop Be Stored?
Three years ago, the storage situation was so difficult that many bales were stored outside on airport runways at Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock. Williams says he has heard reports that this won’t be an option in 2010. The airport runways aren’t available, and it’s possible that USDA won’t allow outside storage this time because of potential weather damage to the bales.
Although the prospect of a large crop might seem a bit overwhelming, Texas ginners have increased their capacity on an hourly basis.
“Most gins see a big volume as a positive situation because it usually means that they have a better chance of having a good year financially,” Williams says. “I do know that a lot of our ginners are already talking with producers on how we can get an early start. Obviously, everybody will have to be patient.”
Being able to handle several issues at the same time is nothing new for TCGA. And that will be the case this year as Texas ginners deal with regulatory, immigration and ongoing labor problems.
“These are all big issues for us, and we’ll certainly be monitoring them to find workable solutions when they potentially affect our ginners,” says Williams. “We will simply do our best to meet this big challenge.”
Gin Tech Notes From Tommy Valco
Be on the lookout for “capacity robbers.” These are the things that slow or stop ginning and limit the bales per hour or bales per day during the season.
During the off-season is a great time to address problems that cause the gin to slow down or stop altogether. This includes both mechanical and personnel problems that limit or rob capacity.
The first thing to do is to identify mechanical breakdowns or choking problems from last season. Good recordkeeping helps to do this. Of course, there is the old fashioned way using pencil and paper, or with new gin production and management software. Downtime reports can then be generated and analyzed at any time.
These reports can identify the time, number of occurrences, production loss, conditions before occurrence and reasons for down time.
Ginners are generally amazed when they see how many times and how much time was lost to a particular problem such as a choked inclined or busted drive belt on a stick machine.
Sometimes this can be an exhaustive analysis of the situation, with the problem only happening under certain conditions, and difficult to identify.
Gin personnel are also critical in keeping the gin at optimum capacity. A good gin operator must not only understand the equipment but be skilled in hiring and training employees.
Workers should be dependable, drug and alcohol free and have good communications skills. Proper training can keep the gin functioning smoothly.
– Thomas D. Valco, USDA Cotton Technology Transfer. For additional ginning information, go to http://msa.ars.usda.gov/gintech.