U.S. cotton’s reputation for being the cleanest in the world “could be seriously damaged,” if contamination of ginned fiber becomes a widespread problem, says Dwayne Alford, president of the National Cotton Ginners Association, Yuma, Ariz.

To that end, he said at the annual meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at Memphis, the NCGA is working with equipment manufacturers, the National Cotton Council, and the nation’s ginners to eliminate the potential for contamination.

Additionally, he says, there needs to be an awareness — from the grower on through the processing chain — of the importance of keeping cotton contaminant-free.

“During the past two years, efforts have been initiated to train gin employees on the proper procedures for removing wrappers from round modules,” Alford says.

But while the number of round modules handled by gins has increased significantly, the greatest threat to contamination of the yarn used by spinning mills remains thinner plastics, “such as shopping bags and black mulching.”

As the John Deere 7760 picker continues to grow in popularity and gins continue to purchase handling equipment and make modifications to unwrap the round modules, he says, “Removal of these plastic wrappers has to be done correctly and safely.”

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As part of the effort to address these concerns, Alford notes, the NCGA has produced a video on round module handling and safety that will be made available prior to the 2014 ginning season.

“As other harvesting equipment manufacturers are making changes to existing machines or developing new systems, we feel it is important that these companies work with our ginners to insure compatibility with existing ginning systems and prevent contamination.

“During the recent NCGA board meeting, a recommendation was approved to request that harvesting equipment manufacturers consult with producers and ginners in the development of new systems, or modifications to existing systems. This language was adopted by the National Cotton Council, and we will be following up with equipment manufacturers to make them aware of this policy.”

Alford says NCGA is continuing to support research, through the USDA Cotton Ginning Laboratories and Cotton Incorporated, that addresses quality issues and concerns.