In recent years, the South has been no stranger to cotton gin closings and consolidation. That has led to a number of issues and questions for the cotton industry.

Data on how best to address those issues and questions is being collected and analyzed by Matt Fannin, LSU AgCenter agricultural economist, and his colleagues.

Early in August, Fannin received news that a USDA grant would extend his research by two years. According to the LSU AgCenter, the project “will identify cost savings associated with alternative cotton harvest and transportation options and identify optimal ownership of new technology to improve efficiency in the marketing supply chain for cotton in the Mid-South.”

In July, Fannin made a presentation at the summer meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association (SCGA). Shortly after, he spoke with Delta Farm Press about his findings, the impact of new cotton technologies and gin structuring. Among his comments:

On the USDA grant…

Fellow LSU AgCenter agricultural economist “Ken Paxton and I focused on the issue of transportation of cotton from field to gin and the concerns over the availability of gin infrastructure. That’s particularly true of areas where gins are closing because of reduced cotton acreage. Will there be sufficient ginning infrastructure close enough for historical cotton-producing regions to remain viable?

“Basically, our results so far have shown that despite there being fewer gins, the gins still in business are extending the distance they’ll haul cotton. They have excess capacity to do just that. In our interpretation, there is still money to be made from cotton grown much farther from the gin than has been historically true.

“We received a new grant – which starts in September and runs two years – that extends our existing research. The new project will look at the changing technology of cotton harvesting with the new on-board module harvesters. We’ll see how that affects transportation in terms of the different issues the gin must take such as retrofitting to handle the John Deere round-bale modules and half-modules from Case IH. How does that impact the types of hauling equipment used? What about dedicated module trucks versus flatbed trailers for hauling to the gin?

“Also, we’ll look at ownership structures and whether gins should be in the business of owning their own trucks or if it’s best to outsource.”