Sometimes we can learn more about farmers and ginners by spending an entire day with these folks and tracing their steps during a typical work day. In other words, unless we can understand the numerous decisions made by men and women of agriculture, we can never appreciate what they deal with on a daily basis. Such was the case recently when I traveled to the South Delta in Mississippi.
My assignment was to spend some time with Robert Royal, current president of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association (SCGA) and a fourth generation farmer/ginner. He is vice president and general manager of the Midnight Gin in Midnight, Miss., a quaint little town located on US 49W about halfway between Indianola and Yazoo City.
And, yes, if you didn’t know better, you might think you were stepping back in time when you drive into Midnight. Things move at a slower pace in small towns, but that’s also their charm. Simple pleasures like sipping iced tea on a screened-in porch and conversing with friends at lunch in a local restaurant are to be treasured on a late summer afternoon.
As you’ll find out in our cover story on pages 8 and 9, Robert’s gin might be categorized as a small operation by most standards. However, don’t be deceived by the fact that his gin processed just over 11,000 bales in 2012. He understands cotton quality and knows what it takes to survive in today’s volatile cotton environment – especially since his family’s involvement in agriculture dates back more than 100 years.
As president of SCGA, Robert also has an appreciation for what ginners in the Mid-South are facing – competition from grain crops, reduced cotton acres and volatile prices for all commodities. In his Q&A interview with Cotton Farming, he talks about issues pertinent to his own gin and farm, and he is keenly aware of what the cotton industry is facing in the future.
For the record, he hasn’t given up on cotton. In fact, on this particular afternoon, Robert was excited about December cotton futures going past the 90-cent mark. He’s counting on cotton acreage stabilizing in Mississippi with some steady increases in future years – and the price increase certainly added to his optimism.
I learned an important lesson after visiting the Midnight Gin. Cotton quality can be delivered to textile mills from many different sources. Small gins have always done an excellent job of protecting lint quality, and an operation in Mississippi’s South Delta definitely falls into that category.
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