The U.S. cotton industry contributes 35% of the cotton exported globally.
Cotton processing can require intense work and training, including the proper use of the cotton gins commonly used to speed up the cleaning process of cotton seeds, removal of foreign materials, and compression of the cotton into lint bales. In perspective, one bale of cotton can make more than 200 pairs of jeans or 1,200 t-shirts.
USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service data shows 509 active cotton gins are currently operating in the U.S. Recently, the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Cotton Ginners Association (NCGA) partnered in an annual outreach program to provide cotton ginners education and training for industry workers. USDA-ARS research leaders and the NCGA Vice President lead the efforts with assistance from USDA-ARS scientists, NCGA member associations, land grant universities, industry partners, and stakeholder groups.
"These annual schools are a significant outreach program to the industry and a diverse group of workers," said Greg Holt, research leader at the Cotton Production and Processing Research Unit in Lubbock, Texas. "The schools' curriculum emphasizes increasing ginning efficiency, turning out high-quality fiber, and focusing on improving safety."
The schools represent a successful coordinated effort between the USDA-ARS and stakeholders.
The first school was held at the USDA-ARS Cotton Ginning Research Laboratory in Stoneville, Mississippi, in 1986, after a group of industry leaders and USDA officials saw the need for a training program that would teach ginning operations and safety. The Western Ginners School at the Southwestern Cotton Ginning Research Laboratory in Las Cruces, New Mexico, started in 1987, followed by the Southwest Ginners School in Lubbock, Texas, in 1989.
Since 1986, approximately 10,625 students have attended all three schools.
The schools cover safety, hydraulics, pneumatics, machinery settings, and moisture control. In addition, a total of 465 individuals have successfully completed the Certified Ginners Program that began in 1998. The curriculum continues to evolve to account for industry changes.
Decades of training provided by the Cotton Ginners Schools reflect USDA’s commitment to working with partners to ensure producers have the support they need to increase cotton production and quality.
More details about the program can be found at www.cotton.org/ncga/ginschool/index.cfm.