“It’s a done deal, and I’m pleased with the way we were able to get together and get it behind us without rancor,” says Jerry Marshall of Cargill Cotton, who spoke at the annual meeting of the ginner association at Memphis in conjunction with the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show.

Following the Memphis Cotton Exchange’s decision last year to impose penalties on underweight 2002-crop bales, leaders from the three organizations met to discuss the issue, resulting in an agreement to delay the penalties until the 2003 crop.

“They were very cooperative in meeting and working with us,” says Sledge Taylor, president of the ginner group.

He said informational meetings are planned to discuss the changes and to make gins aware of the problems caused by lightweight bales.

Marshall, who is senior vice president for Cargill Cotton at Cordova, Tenn., says the talks last November were greatly facilitated by use of a bale weight data base from the Staplcotn cooperative for their entire volume of 2001-crop cotton. Staplcotn, at Greenwood, Miss., is among the largest producer-owned cotton cooperatives in the U.S.

“Their data made it easy to focus on facts and specifics, rather than exchanging theories with each other,” Marshall says.

“We already knew that the average bale weight in the Mid-South was 6 pounds to 7 pounds less than in the rest of the country. What the Staplcotn data showed was that the problem isn’t the average weight; rather, it’s that a relatively small number of gins were producing a whole lot of lightweight bales.

“That insight was the key factor that enabled a compromise to be reached.”

A comparison of the Memphis Cotton Exchange penalties under the old Rule 19 and the new Rule 19 follows:

  • Under the old rule, 453-420 lb. bales were penalized $2. Under the new rule, 463-430 lb. bales will be penalized $3.
  • Under the old rule, 419-390 lb. bales were penalized $5; under the new rule, 429-400 lb. bales will be penalized $6.
  • Under the old rule, under-390 lb. bales were penalized $10 or could be rejected; under the new rule, under-400 lb. bales will be penalized $20 or can be rejected.
  • Under the old rule, over-600 lb. bales were rejected; this will continue under the new rule.
  • The penalty threshold is 485 lbs. under both the old and new rules.
  • The new rule is effective for the 2003 crop.

In addition to the joint agreement on the penalties, Marshall says, it was also agreed that the National Cotton Council would work with the Memphis Cotton Exchange and the various ginner associations “to educate growers and ginners across the belt about the problems caused by lightweight and heavyweight bales.”

The major problem, he notes, “is the high cost that results from handling these bales and efficiently fulfilling domestic and export contracts with bales that don’t weigh close to 500 pounds.”

The program will be conducted through the three ginning schools and will be “a significant part” of the National Cotton Council’s communications with ginners and growers.

“We look forward to assisting in this process and trust it will have the desired results,” Marshall says. “It’s gratifying to see that the average bale in the Mid-South for the 2002 crop is about 4 pounds heavier than in 2001.”

He expressed appreciation to all participants in the discussions for their willingness to achieve a compromise that would help solve the bale weight problem.

“I believe we merchants have a better understanding of the problems the ginners face, and I think you ginners are now more aware of the problems we must contend with.”

Marshall’s firm, Cargill Cotton, is one of the world’s largest cotton merchants, serving growers, ginners, buyers, and textile mills worldwide.

e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com