Some of the gins in the Tennessee Valley need an acreage increase this year to get back closer to full capacity and to help with their economic feasibility, says Burmester.

“It’ll be good for our ginners here, and I don’t foresee any problems. There have been a few gin closings in the region in recent years, but most of the larger gins have continued running. The big ones still won’t be ginning as much as they did six or seven years ago.

“Cotton acreage really plummeted in the Tennessee Valley two years ago, and we probably won’t ever see cotton reach the levels we once saw. There are just too many other crop options now. Soybeans are doing really well here, and growers have gotten into good rotations. We won’t ever again see cotton in every field, every year, and that’s a good thing,” he says.

One Tennessee Valley farmer who has had a vested interest in the viability of cotton ginning in the region is Mike Tate, whose family farming operation is a principal owner in a local gin.

He agrees that adequate ginning capacity won’t be an issue this year. “Most growers are sticking to a corn rotation, and there’s a lot wheat planted here. We have a good infrastructure now for grain crops, and those crops have been good to the farmers here. I don’t think we’ll see an astronomical increase in cotton acres, and there should be plenty of ginning capacity to take care of what’s harvested,” he says.

Tate says his gin has processed about 12,000 bales in the past three years or so, and with an average crop, they could see as many as 15,000 bales or better this year. He points out that five years ago, that number was closer to 35,000 to 40,000 bales per year.

“We spent money becoming more efficient in the ginning operation, and then the bottom dropped out of the acreage. So we have continued to make improvements, and we’re ready and waiting for this year’s crop,” he says.

In Mississippi, although there has been a 34 percent decrease in the number of cotton gins in operation since 2000, Extension Economist John Michael Ray doesn’t foresee any problems this year, because after a significant drop, cotton acreage has stabilized in the past two years.

“There is enough ginning capacity in Mississippi to handle the acreage increase here this year. Cotton acreage has climbed gradually in the past two years. If acreage does increase to the point to where more ginning capacity is needed, those that have gone idle in recent years could be re-tooled to fill that need,” he says.

But Ray doesn’t believe Mississippi’s cotton acreage will ever return to its once-lofty levels for two reasons. “One, I don’t think the current cotton prices can be sustained at this level, and two, farmers in the state have made a substantial investment in their grain infrastructure, with many new bins being erected in recent years,” he says.