Farmers are six weeks away from planting season, but three area gins are still ginning cotton. Last year's area record breaking cotton crop has produced 4.7 million bales. King Mesa Gin in Lamesa, American Cotton Growers in Crosby County and Slaton Coop Gin continue to gin around the clock.
Weather delays and a record breaking crop have prolonged this year's cotton season. "The longest I've ever done in 44 years," explains Bobby Britton. In almost 50 years in the cotton industry, Britton, Manager of Slaton Coop Gin, says the gin has been going strong seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day for the past six months. "We hauled in the last out of the field this morning," he says.
One of the last gins in the area to finish the season, the Coop Gin has already processed more than 92,000 bales of cotton and in just two weeks they'll finally finish the crop. "This area is traditionally the last to finish the ginning season," points out Roger Haldenby with Plains Cotton Growers. He says 142 gins make up the region's gin network and the record crop season has bridged the 2004 crop with this year's."We're hoping to get everything ginned before planting for the 2005 season," he explains.
Roger says most farmers will begin planting cotton seed at the end of may when the soil is warm and moist, a jump start to a crop many say could be comparable to last year's. "I hope we see another one like it next year," says Britton. The best and the last crop Britton will see, after the gining is complete he and his wife Dorothy will retire after working side by side for 18 years at the Slaton Coop Gin. "We're one of the last ones to get through but sometimes last is sometimes best," he says with a chuckle.
Ginned cotton is being stored at area compresses. Many of those are at full capacity, leaving thousands of bales outside, waiting to be exported. It could be up to a year before the cotton is shipped from the area.
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