Immigration reform is an issue also of concern to the ginning industry, Alford says.

“If you look at many ginning crews across the cotton belt, you’ll see that many of them are Hispanic. Immigration reform has been talked about for years, and it appears there is broad support for an immigration bill. The Senate has passed its version of immigration reform, including provisions for agricultural employers and employees.

“And while the House Judiciary Committee has approved the Agricultural Guest Worker Act, we have a long way to go before the House completes its work. We’re told the House may take a more piecemeal approach instead of a comprehensive bill.”

As the cotton ginning industry evolves, Alford says, the trend is to fewer gins that are processing more bales than ever.

“During the National Cotton Council’s Vision 21 cotton flow study, the merits of four-bale marketing as a single unit was discussed as an innovative merchandizing method that could cut warehousing costs and improve cotton flow. In 2011, this concept became NCC policy.

“Recognizing the need for increased efficiencies at the gin, the Technology Committee considered and passed a recommendation to invstigate the benefits of a larger bale being produced at the gin. While this concept may be years in the future, NCGA will work with other industry segments to determine its needs and merits.

It’s important, Alford says, that gin employees continue to be well-trained, and to that end the cotton ginning certification courses held yearly at three locations can be of great value to gin personnel.

The schools are scheduled this year at the South Plains Ginning Laboratory, Lubbock, Texas, March 31-April 2; the Southwest Ginning Research Laboratory, Mesilla Park, N.M., May 6-8; and the USDA Ginning Research Laboratory, Stoneville, Miss., June 3-5. Details and registration information are available at ncga.cotton.org/ncga/ginschool

“With the assistance of the USDA and gin equipment manufacturers, school participants are trained on operations, safety, and other topics important to their gins.”

Ginners receiving certification in 2013 included Jeremy Holmes and Landa Nichols, Bay Gin Company, Bay, Ark., and John Jeter, Zion Gin Company, Brownsville, Tenn.

“We congratulate these ginners on completing this intensive program,” Alford said.