ATHENS, Ala. (AP) — A county at the heart of Alabama’s cotton industry is getting a new gin for the first time in generations.
Associated Growers Cooperative is building a more than $7.2 million gin in Limestone County, near the Tennessee line in north Alabama.
The facility’s assistant manager, Billy Stickler, told the Decatur Daily the complex is the first new cotton gin constructed in Limestone in 60 years. The machines separate cotton fibers from seeds and are a vital component in cotton production.
The gin will replace the cooperative’s adjacent plant near Athens that was built in the late 1950s, Stickler said.
“If we were going to stay in the cotton business, this had to happen,” said Stickler, who has worked at the plant 20 years. “Last season, we ginned 34,000 bales of cotton. It took us five and a half months, working 12-hour days, seven days a week. We had five days off.”
Government statistics show Limestone and adjacent Madison counties were Alabama’s top-producing cotton areas last year.
Cotton is a bright spot in Alabama agriculture, and a new gin is good news because the state needs the infrastructure, said Max Runge of the Alabama Extension System.
“It is one of the keys in having a healthy ag economy,” Runge said.
The number of acres planted in cotton is forecast to reach 490,000 statewide, up 13 percent, for 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. In 2017, 435,000 acres of cotton were planted and 430,000 acres harvested, the report said.