As I write this, the coronavirus numbers are just as confusing as they were when this whole thing started. No one knows exactly what is going on and how this odd disease seems to work and/or affect individuals.
What we do know is that few people have any natural or acquired immunity. We also know it can affect different people in totally different ways. One person may just have cold-like symptoms, a friend may end up in the hospital and another may have hardly any symptoms at all.
What does this have to do with ginning? Nothing and everything at the same time. Long gone are the days when gins could count on local labor to fill a crew. Local folks just don’t want to do deal with moving to two shifts, working long hours or having a seven-day work week anymore.
Migrant Labor Considerations
Consequently, gins have transitioned to using migrant labor. This refers to labor that doesn’t live locally and travels to where the work is. Often, it comprises a group of people who move with the gin season as it progresses and, just as often, most of them are related to each other.
As we’ve moved to hiring migrant workers, housing has become an issue. Some gins provide accommodations, some help arrange lodging and some don’t worry about it as the crew members themselves find a place to live while they are here. Since it’s typically a bunch of guys who are related or friends, they don’t mind sleeping in what most of us would consider tight quarters.
With the virus’s ability to spread faster than the common cold or flu, close working conditions, transportation and living arrangements have led to outbreaks in places in similar situations as gins. They haven’t been widespread but can be tough on the employees and the employer. Preparation is key.
Coronavirus In The Workplace
In different geographies, we are several weeks or months away from ginning season. Now is the time to be thinking about how to prevent community spread of the disease among your workers and what you need to do if it begins to move through your employees.
If an outbreak is bad enough, you will lose productivity and may have to shut down or go to one shift. How are you going to handle medical attention for the employees?
If the spread of the coronavirus is tied to work practices or things the employer could have done to prevent it or slow it down, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is considering it work related. Most workers’ compensation programs (with some exceptions) are not covering the treatment as a work illness. Prepare now to keep this disease out of your gin.
This is when I say, “Check with your local ginners’ association for more details and guidance.” It sounds cliché, but the way this particular situation is changing, new guidance and understanding comes out every day. Don’t wait until the last minute.
Look to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and OSHA guidance for agriculture TODAY. Make it a priority to keep the coronavirus out of your gin. If it does show up, you need to have a plan in place to keep it from spreading.
Dusty Findley, CEO of the Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association, contributed this article. Contact him at 706-344-1212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TCGA Interns In Place
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses to make difficult decisions, and many summer internship programs were canceled. Fortunately, that was not the case for the Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association. Texas Cotton Ginners’ Trust will also host an intern this summer.
In a late development, we were able to hire a student from South Plains College and place him with a member gin. These young people will get to experience the cotton ginning industry, and we look forward to having them on board. Please take a moment to meet the TCGA summer interns.
Amos Emanis – Texas A&M University
Emanis is from Katy, Texas, and will complete a degree in biological & agricultural engineering (BAEN) in May 2021. He has worked in the BAEN laboratory and machine shop for Dr. Robert Hardin. One of his projects was to complete the design for the RFID module tag reader.
Emanis also worked with Kalin Clark — a 2019 TCGA intern — on a Capstone research project designed to remove plastic contaminates at the module feeder. He participated in two gin-related projects in the BAEN department, making him an ideal fit for the internship. Emanis will intern at United Ag Co-op Inc. in El Campo.
Oscar Barajas – South Plains College
Barajas is from Denver City in West Texas and currently resides in Lubbock, where he attends South Plains College. During his first year in school, Barajas learned about electric circuits, including how to build them. He also has several years of background in the automotive field. Barajas enjoys working on cars and is anxious to begin his summer internship.
He will be at United Cotton Growers Cooperative in Levelland. Brajas is our first intern from South Plains College. We hope to groom interns from this institution for gin superintendent positions.
Zach Stovall – Texas A&M University
Stovall is from Dumas, Texas, and is focusing on a degree in agricultural systems management. He has a couple years of college left, so we are catching him early. Stovall will intern with Texas Cotton Ginners’ Trust. He grew up in the cotton industry and is the son of Leighton Stovall, manager of Moore County Gin in Dumas.
TCGA has the privilege of interviewing many well-qualified college students for the internship. We love giving young people a chance to see if cotton ginning is a career they may want to pursue and showcase their value to potential employers.
Hopefully, all of the interns will gain valuable “real-world experience” and get ready to take the next step in their careers.
We look forward to hearing from them. Stay tuned to TCGA’s monthly newsletter and follow us on Facebook. Search for Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association and be sure to like our page!
TCGA provided this article.