No cotton harvest means no jobs at cotton gins

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedbackMONETTE, AR (KAIT) - A summer and fall full of rain equals bad news for cotton farmers.

For most of Region 8, cotton picking machinery is sitting idle as are most of the cotton gins.

They would like to say they are running full blast but that's not true. In fact, many haven't ginned anything yet this season. At most cotton gins here in Region 8, the people who work there and the people who will work there just sit and wait.

When you look at a cotton compress there are actually 2 places from which a gin makes money.

The general manager for the gin, Maleisa Finch, said, "A gin makes money off of the seed and for us we have bale warehouses so we make our money off storing the cotton in the bale warehouses."

By now the warehouses should be filling up. Instead, it's just a big empty space.

Around Monette, some cotton fields are still leaf covered, some are defoliated and some are just now being defoliated. What is not happening is cotton being picked and cotton being ginned.

As we stood next to the silent stands I asked Gin Manager Dewayne Couch if it were a normal year would we be able to do this.

Couch, "No way! No, usually at this time of year, we're wide open 24 hours around the clock."

Dewayne Couch manages the ginning process. By now he usually has brought a full crew in and is working round the clock. With the weather delay for cotton everything is on hold including those seasonal jobs.

Couch, "It's bad for us and really bad for them because a lot of them depend on this job and we can't afford to pay them if we're not doing anything."

It is hoped to have a crew in by the 12th with a tentative start up on the 20th. So right now it's not really costing the gin but it's not making money either.

Finch, "The seed quality is going down and also with the cotton being like it is they will probably move it out of the warehouse in a hurry so we will lose that extra storage that we have."

The storage fees alone could make the gin upwards of half a million dollars in a good year.

Finch, " far we've had none."

Couch, "This year the weather hasn't worked with us. It's just a different situation than what we've ever had."

To tell you how many people want to work this year, Couch told me he had a stack of applications this thick. Mostly from people he didn't even know. But his returning people get first chance at jobs even if they don't know for sure when the gin will start up.

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