This week, Commission staff was given the opportunity to tour the USDA-AMS Cotton Classing Office in Macon. All producers have a vested interest in the operations of the classing office, as this is where samples of every bale of cotton go to be graded. The results of this process determine if and how many discounts are applied to the check that the farmer receives for their crop. It was impressive to see the lengths that the staff go to to make sure that all samples are classed on par with one another.
Samples arrive on trucks from all the gins in the office’s territory (all of Georgia and Florida, plus half of Alabama). They are then racked on conveyors and are conditioned, which means they wait some time in a climate controlled environment to make sure that the temperature, humidity, and moisture levels in the air around the samples is the same. The samples then head into another room where classers, in a very quick fashion, pull “beards” off of each side of the sample and run it through an APHIS machine where the strength, staple length, fiber diameter, and fiber uniformity are tested. After this, another amount of cotton is taken and ran through another machine that photographs the cotton from all sides to determine the color. This all happens in roughly 45 seconds. Periodically throughout the day, checks are ran on the machines to make sure that everything is working correctly. After this, the samples are put back on racks and ran into another room where another group of inspectors pull the samples apart to determine if there is excess grass or bark. The average classer runs through 75 samples per hour, which explains how the office can run through the samples of over 30,000 bales in a 24 hour period.
It was very impressive the emphasis that the staff puts on training and uniformity. One comment made from USDA staff at the office was on plastic in the samples, which has been discussed in our media before. If possible, producers should use the practices mentioned in this article. The main carry home point from our visit with the Classing Office is that producer’s cotton is in good hands with the staff at the Macon Cotton Classing Office.
The Georgia Cotton Commission, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Agriculture and Georgia Grown, unveiled a new line of Georgia Grown T-Shirts grown and sewn locally in Georgia during the 40th Annual Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia.
“The Georgia Cotton Commission is proud to work with Commissioner Black to showcase the quality cotton grown by our hard working Georgia cotton farmers,” said Georgia Cotton Commission Chairman Bart Davis.
The 100 percent cotton shirts are sourced from South Georgia farmers, including Al and Rob Merritt from Wray, Georgia. The cotton was ginned at Osceola Cotton Company in Irwin County, Georgia. Platinum Sportswear receives the finished fabric and sews the shirts at their facility in Wilkes County, Georgia. The entire process is completed within the 600 mile radius. Georgia Grown has partnered with local screen printers, including the Georgia Industries for the Blind, to complete the design process for local businesses and organizations. All of the shirts are completely customizable and feature a 100% Georgia Grown cotton tag.
“With the largest row crop industry in this state being cotton, it is an honor to present 100 percent cotton shirts grown and sewn in Georgia,” said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black. “We are thrilled to identify a transparent supply chain to produce a high quality, Georgia-made product that consumers will be proud to wear.”
The 100% Georgia Grown shirts will be offered as a wholesale option to outside screen printers and shirt retailers. The estimated wholesale price of each shirt will be comparable to other high quality T-shirts. For information on ordering shirts, please contact Georgia Grown at (404) 656-3680 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the Georgia Cotton Commission, please visit us at www.georgiacottoncommission.org or call us at (478) 988-4235.
As growers start the harvest season, it is important to remind them to “keep it clean and pure” this year. Over the past few years, the reputation that the American cotton grower has worked hard to earn has been challenged by contamination of the crop by a variety of foreign materials, including plastic. Producers have to be vigilant to make sure to keep contaminants out of their cotton. There have been reports of bales being sent back to gins, and customers moving elsewhere because of plastic contamination. The cotton industry is committed to improving this situation for all along the cotton supply chain.
Foreign materials are simply anything but lint and seed that is mixed into the cotton during harvest or during/after processing. They can range from bark to plastic bags to bale wrap. Not only can foreign material inadvertently make it into yarns and fabrics, but they can also degrade the crop. These things can very easily be taken in by harvesting equipment, and it is easier to prevent contamination than it is to remove contaminants from baled or ginned cotton.
Before harvest, growers must educate employees by creating a foreign materials watch list, and posting that list in automobiles and tractor/sprayer/picker cabs. Once that education is complete, workers can then identify and abate any potential contaminants in the field by stopping what they are doing to remove the foreign materials in the field. It is just as imperative to start the harvest season with clean equipment. For growers who use the new picker/balers, it is important to make sure that the equipment is not rubbing or puncturing the bale wrap and that the wrap is adhering in the correct places, as to not have any yellow or pink plastic lodged in the cotton. Transport bales at a height above the cotton stalks and place them at a flat, clean spot with a little bit of space between them.
Ginners and warehouses also need to take precautions. These entities need to start the season clean and keep their employees educated on how to prevent contamination and the importance of preventing it. Areas in the process that are more susceptible to contamination are transporting bales/modules and removing bale wrap. It is also important to make sure that grease, oil, and other similar product spills on the floors where cotton is handled are cleaned up thoroughly.
While these tips seem simple, they are very important in keeping our cotton contamination free this year. Following these simple guidelines can help keep the high standard of American cotton around the world, and could improve access to more foreign markets. For more information about this topic and others, please contact the Georgia Contact Commission at www.georgiacottoncommission.org or (478) 988-4235.
In July the Georgia Cotton Commission Ex Oficio’s met and appointed Chris Hopkins, a first generation farmer and agribusinessman from Lyons, Georgia to the Georgia Cotton Commission Board of Directors. Chris takes the place of former Chairman Mike Lucas of Bleckley County. When asked about his appointment, Chris said, “I’m honored to serve my fellow cotton growers on the Commission Board and proud to support our industry.”
Chris grew up in Swainsboro and attended the University of Georgia where he earned a degree in Crop Science and later received a Master’s in Plant Pathology & Pest Management. While a student, Hopkins was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity, where he served as an officer, and the AGHON Professional Agricultural Honor Society. AGHON is the highest honor a student in the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources, the College of Veterinary Medicine, or the College of Engineering may attain at the University of Georgia.
After college, Chris worked for the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service as a county Agriculture/Natural Resources agent in Toombs County. He also worked for Bayer as the Southeast Region Cotton Agronomist. He was later hired by Lasseter Implement Company to oversee operations for their Lyons, GA location, and has worked in that role for nine years. In 2005, he and his wife, the former Marilynn Hopkins, started Hopkins Farm on 50 acres. Today they raise cotton, corn, peanuts, rye, watermelons, and timber on 850 acres.
Chris serves his community as the president of the Toombs County Farm Bureau and a Supervisor of the Ohoopee River Soil & Water Conservation District. Hopkins also is a member of the American Farm Bureau Technology Advisory Committee, the Robert Toombs Christian Academy Board of Directors, and a former Vice Chair of the Georgia Farm Bureau Young Farmer Committee. In 2012, Chris was awarded the Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award and the Georgia Farm Bureau Young Farmer Achievement Award. He and Marilynn have two sons, Banks and Luke, and attend the First Baptist Church of Lyons.