Cotton Links

- TCGA ‘Ginner Of The Year’ -


Lee Tiller isn’t caught off guard too often. But when he was told that the Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association was honoring him as “Ginner of the Year,” he was at a loss for words.

His wife Lynette and other ginning associates made a special trip to Lee’s office at the Smith Gin in Odem to tell him the good news.

“When I saw Lynette walking through the door, I didn’t know what to think,” says Tiller with a laugh. “I was very surprised to hear that I had won this award. It’s just very humbling when you consider all of the previous winners.”

When he receives the award at the TCGA annual meeting awards banquet, it will culminate a memorable year for Tiller, who previously served as the organization’s president in 2006.

Tiller says he has thoroughly enjoyed being in a leadership position for the industry for several years, and he is looking forward to continuing that contribution in future years.

As manager of Smith Gin, Tiller knows all about dealing with challenges during a crop season. In 2007, his region in the Coastal Bend was headed toward an excellent year when untimely weather dumped between 18 to 40 inches of rain in late July and early August.

Somehow, good yields were still achieved, but grades were severely affected, and the seed was also damaged. At one point, Tiller thought his gin would process 90,000 bales, but the output was considerably lower.

“It was just one of those seasons where the weather hammered us,” he says.

“But we’re glad that the High Plains was able to deliver a big crop and help the entire state produce more than eight million bales.”

Tiller shares the feelings of other state cotton leaders when he expresses cautious optimism that the new Farm Bill will allow U.S. cotton to remain competitive in the future.

Because of projected cotton acreage decreases in 2008, Tiller says that more than half of the U.S. acreage will be in Texas. However, he readily accepts the challenge and believes the state can continue to deliver big yields and superior fiber quality.

“I’m just thankful that Texas producers are able to produce cotton and deliver it in a timely manner to our customers,” he says. “It’s pretty amazing that so much cotton will continue to be produced in our state while other regions are experiencing reductions in acreage.”

Tiller is also hopeful that the state’s cotton industry can deal with some major issues that could potentially have an impact on all producers and ginners. One of those issues is immigration policy and its impact on available labor.

Tiller says workers from Mexico are needed on the farm and at the gin if Texas is to continue to deliver such big crops in the future.

“We need an effective immigration program to allow these workers to come into the United States and work for us,” says Tiller. “Without them, we are facing some big problems. I just hope this will work out in a positive way for us.”

According to Tiller, the labor problem is already having an effect in Oklahoma. He’s hoping that Texas can find a way to remedy the situation so that guest workers can continue to work in the Lone Star state.

Another key to the future health of Texas cotton is how ginners will embrace technology to become more efficient. Tiller’s gin has already adapted its operation so that it can utilize the new John Deere on-board module system of harvesting.

Tiller will have a large contingent of family and friends at the awards banquet. That group will include wife Lynette and possibly his two sons – Christopher and Brian. Tiller’s father, brothers and a nephew also plan to attend.

“It will be a very special night for everybody in our family,” he adds.

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