Budget cuts that threaten ginning and fiber quality research programs, and increasing regulatory issues continue as key concerns for the ginning industry, says Lee Tiller, president of the National Cotton Ginners Association.

“The Clemson fiber research facility was closed last October,” he said at the annual meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association and Foundation, held in conjunction with the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show.

“Unless this research can be conducted at another facility, we will have lost a vital link between the ginning laboratories and the textile industry. It’s our understanding that with the help of the national ginners organization and the National Cotton Council, some of the Clemson research will now be conducted at the Southern Regional Research Center at New Orleans.”

Ginners and the entire cotton industry rely heavily on the three USDA ginning laboratories for much of the basic research that has facilitated fiber quality improvements, says Tiller, who is manager of Smith Gin Co-op at Odem, Texas.

“With every federal agency’s budget cut, it will be even more imperative that we support these USDA ginning labs and that all segments of our industry work to insure that these facilities are adequately funded so they can continue their valuable research and training programs.”

In the past year, he said, the NCGA and other groups have worked to retain the position of Cotton technology transfer and Education Coordinator for the Office of Technology Transfer held by Tommy Valco and located at the Jamie Whitten Delta States Research Center at Stoneville, Miss.

“Tommy is the point person for technology transfer between the ginning industry and the Agricultural Research Service,” Tiller says, “and it is important that we have assurance that his position will continue as it has in the past.

“Given recent and upcoming budget cuts, the ginning industry can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. There is little doubt that in the future the three USDA ginning labs and important USDA staff positions may be in jeopardy.”

The U.S. ginning industry is continually striving “to supply the highest quality fiber possible tour customers,” he says, “and we work closely with the ginning labs and Cotton Incorporated to insure that quality-related research is ongoing. Our goal is to produce the best quality fiber in the world.

“Several years ago, our national ginner organization began establishing a dialogue with our foreign mill customers to promote U.S. cotton quality by reviewing USDA classing data and the research projects that are currently under way.

“This past year, NCGA had the opportunity to present this information during Cotton Council International’s ‘Cotton USA’ orientation tour, which included 32 foreign textile executives, representing 14 countries and 28 foreign textile mills.

“We emphasized the gains made in U.S. cotton quality over the past 10 years and detailed the extensive research by our ginning industry to improve fiber quality. Later this year, two of our ginners will travel to China to meet with industry leaders and reinforce the gains we have made in fiber quality.”

While the 2010 national elections lessened the likelihood that some legislative initiatives will pass in Congress, Tiller says “the reality is that regulations can and will be used to achieve the goals of some activists. While some OSHA and EPA initiatives have been placed on hold, new regulatory proposals — or other means to achieve the same outcome — continue to surface.

“Even though several pieces of onerous legislation and proposed rules have either been pulled or modified, there are a number of initiatives that could potentially affect our industry. We continue to maintain a strong working relationship with the National Cotton Council, and we rely heavily on their staff to monitor many of the regulatory issues that ginners face.”