Cotton industry leaders appear to have been successful in their effort to retain the field position of USDA federal ginning specialist. The position, held for many years by Bill Mayfield, has been open since Mayfield's retirement.

The USDA had initially decided to retain the position, but to locate it in Washington, D.C., with primary responsibilities in precision agriculture and instrumentation rather than cotton ginning.

“It now appears that the ginning specialist position will be located at Stoneville, Miss., and a job announcement has been recently posted,” Richard Bransford, president of the National Cotton Ginners Assn., told members of the Southern Cotton Ginners Assn. at their annual meeting at Memphis. USDA's Gin Research Laboratory is located at Stoneville.

“We will develop a list of job candidates and make sure each is aware of the details of this job opportunity.”

Bransford, a Lonoke, Ark., producer and ginner, noted that ginner groups have worked closely with the National Cotton Council, key USDA officials, and congressional leaders to retain the ginning field position.

In other industry developments, Bransford noted the appointment of NCGA Vice President Bill Norman as Ginner Services Director for the National Cotton Council.

“Bill's extensive experience and technical abilities from his years with Continental Eagle and more recently as a gin consultant will be of much benefit to the country's ginners, and we're pleased to have him in this key position,” he said.

Development continues on the NCGA Website, Bransford said. “It will feature association information, ginning research papers, a products/services listing for our sponsors, and the Cotton Ginning Journal. We plan to provide Internet access to the libraries of scientific papers from the nation's ginning laboratories and other public research institutions.”

NCGA's Executive Committee is continuing to work with USDA, Cotton Incorporated, and the National Cotton Council's Quality Task Force on several important fiber quality issues, Bransford said.

“We will be seeking a comprehensive approach in dealing with all the components of fiber quality, including cotton standards, measurement technologies, the marketing system, and ginning technologies.”

The organization's mill communication program has held several meetings over the past three years, he said, with top textile executives and NCGA's Executive Committee.

“We held these joint meetings in conjunction with tours of leading commercial textile and ginning operations and public research facilities for cotton spinning and ginning. The emphasis continues to be on critical quality issues and bale packaging concerns. Our last joint session resulted in a National Cotton Council resolution to explore the possibilities of changing the USDA Cotton Standards to include less pepper trash — a concern that is currently being addressed by the council's Cotton Quality Task Force.”

NCGA's Executive Committee also helps to initiate and encourage Cotton Foundation funding for gin-related research and educational projects, Bransford noted.

“This year, 13 of the projects being funded by the foundation will be of direct benefit to the ginning industry. Two will focus studies at one of the ginning laboratories on smoke and lint contamination detection at gins. Total funding for all the projects is over $160,000.”

The association's scholarship foundation now has more than $100,000 banked and drawing interest to help fund scholarships for students in approved gin-related college studies and to establish partnerships with universities in providing course work and research programs directed toward gin industry priorities.

The scholarships honor the service of Peary Wileman, NCGA secretary for more than 25 years. “We've awarded 16 $1,000 scholarships thus far, with four more to be given this year. All this has been done without touching the fund's principal.”

The Gin School Subcommittee is now managing three annual ginner short courses and the national cotton ginner certification program, Bransford said. Over 300 ginners are now actively participating in the certification program.

Other subcommittees are working to resolve air quality issues under the Clean Air Act amendment and to underwrite cottonseed research.

“Our Cottonseed Subcommittee provided input for the establishment of the cottonseed futures contract on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, and our association assisted the National Cotton Council and Cotton Incorporated with regional education programs once the futures contract was approved by the Commodity Futures Trading Corporation.”

NCGA is also working on environmental issues related to gins and cotton protection chemicals, and is exploring potential new uses and markets for gin byproducts.

Bransford said NCGA's Legislative Committee “will continue to monitor and work on priority issues that affect our industry,” including necessary immigration reforms “to provide an agricultural guest worker program.

He said the association and the Cotton Council will continue to pursue an exemption for cotton module truck beds from federal excise tax. “We believe these specialized beds should be exempted, and a jury in federal court in South Dakota agreed with this position. Given this court ruling, we will be seeking legislation to put this exemption into law later this year.”

Bransford said the association is also working with other organizations on concerns about the U.S. Department of Transportation's proposal on driver hours of service and to modify the agricultural exemption.


e-mail: hembree_brandon@intertec.com