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A Very Serious Matter

Gary Adams

Gary Adams

As the 2017 harvest and ginning season approaches, the National Cotton Council urges its members to continue giving top priority to lint contamination prevention.

Is contamination really a threat?
Yes, contamination is one of the most serious threats we face. With strong competition from manmade fibers and cotton from other countries, contamination prevention is imperative. Our industry’s diligence in this undertaking will demonstrate to our textile manufacturer customers a steadfast commitment to providing quality fiber and help maintain our world marketplace reputation.

Although the International Textile Manufacturer Federation’s “Cotton Conta-mination Survey 2005-2016” stated, “Very clean raw cottons were produced in the United States,” it also revealed that some spinners were finding contaminants. More recently, the NCC is seeing a marked increase in textile mills’ contamination complaints. Many involve colored plastic films such as discarded shopping bags and black plastic, which are left in fields as mulch after vegetable harvest. The most reported, though, is yellow plastic used as round module wrap. Despite ongoing NCC-led efforts to train gin employees on proper round module wrap removal techniques, the fact remains that it continues to be found by our valued textile customers.

Other contaminants include cans; bottles; oil and grease; permanent bale markers and various fabrics, including worn-out module tarps as well as ropes and cord used as tarp tie-downs; and baler twine. At some point, these contaminants will be traceable back to gins and individual growers and will affect their pocketbooks. Such penalties will likely be high, not unlike those a grower now receives from classed cotton containing plant-related extraneous matter such as excess bark, grass, seed coat fragments and stickiness.

Are there contamination prevention resources?
As part of the NCC’s “Contamination-Free Cotton” campaign launched last year, the importance of clean cotton fields is being emphasized to U.S. cotton producers and their workers. To help, the NCC updated its pre-harvest, harvest and post-harvest guidelines for contamination prevention on its “Keep It Clean” web page at www.cotton.org/tech/quality/contamfree.cfm. Other resources on this page include downloadable items ranging from flyers, decals and posters to a special round module handling/safety video produced by the National Cotton Ginners Association.

How else is the problem being addressed?
Cotton Council International, our export promotions arm, alerts us when lint contamination is a problem. NCC staff, under the oversight of the NCC’s Quality Task Force, continues to monitor lint contamination incidents and works to trace contamination back to the source. Another critical element in eliminating contamination is for textile mills to notify cotton shippers when contaminants are discovered and that shippers share verified reports with the NCC and other cotton organizations.

The NCC also is working to maintain federal funding for the three USDA ginning laboratories where researchers are collaborating with other scientists to find innovative methods to detect, separate and extract plastic contamination prior to the ginning process. In the meantime, all industry members are encouraged to share what’s working and not working regarding contamination prevention and to relay information about new contamination sources. Contact your NCC member services representative or email keepitclean@cotton.org.

Gary Adams is president/chief executive officer of the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming magazine page.