By Tommy Horton
Even with uncertainty about the Farm Bill and major acreage changes looming, Southern Cotton Ginners Association (SCGA) members are doing their best to adjust to a new environment in the Mid-South.
That was the theme at the organization’s summer meeting in New Orleans heading into the fall harvest and ginning season.
Nobody has to tell Mid-South cotton ginners about how cotton acres are being challenged by soybean and corn prices this year. It’s a reality that the cotton industry has lived with for the past five years as grain prices have increased dramatically.
“What we are hearing is that we’re looking at one or two years of adjustment in Mid-South cotton acreage before we see a turnaround,” says Tim Price, SCGA executive vice president.
“Our farmers and ginners are learning how to adjust, and they are certainly being resilient as they deal with this new environment.”
With the loss of cotton acres, Price says it’s evident that corn and soybean crops have had a difficult time coping with heat and drought conditions this summer. Conversely, he says irrigated cotton acreage has looked excellent in many areas of the Mid-South.
Other factors that SCGA members are dealing with include higher land values brought on by low interest rates, which ultimately affect cash rents and lease agreements.
As if those factors weren’t enough to challenge producers and ginners, there is the continued uncertainty about whether a new Farm Bill will become law before the fall elections.
Price says the long shadow of the Farm Bill debate is the big area of concern that influences all facets of cotton production.
“We know that the traditional setup of farm programs is changing,” he says. “And I think we’re trying to sort out how the elimination of the direct payment will affect cash rentals and lease agreements on cotton acreage.”
One of the positive developments for cotton this year has been the continued support of research programs. During the SCGA’s summer meeting in New Orleans, more than 50 ginners were taken on a tour of the USDA-ARS research lab. Because of federal budget cutbacks, the research programs previously conducted at the USDA-ARS lab at Clemson University are now being conducted in New Orleans.
Price says the ongoing research programs being undertaken at the New Orleans lab are a testament to the cotton industry’s commitment to research and cotton quality.
“I think it says a lot about our industry when we can continue to do important research even when we’re having to deal with budget cuts,” he says.
Efficiency At All Levels
Other topics of concern for ginners are safety regulations and issues related to fiber quality.
For example, warehouses are being encouraged to store cotton in a way that makes it easier to sort various grades and qualities before shipping to final destinations. Price also says the industry must remain vigilant in eliminating contamination from U.S. cotton being shipped to mills.
Additional issues discussed at the meeting centered on utilizing longer gin runs and module averaging to better coordinate and enhance the cotton flow process.
As challenges for the industry emerge on every front, Price remains optimistic about what lies ahead for producers and ginners.
“In the end, we will find a way to stay competitive,” he says. “That is always our mission.”
Contact Tommy Horton at (901) 767-4020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.