It has been 60 years since cotton was ginned in White County. That will change this fall.
A new cotton gin has broken ground outside of Griffithville. The gin will employ at least 20 people, according to Tripp Gin Co. and should be completed in time for the fall harvest.
Cotton had been absent from White County for over sixty years until two Griffithville farmers decided to again grow the crop. One of those farmers, Billy W. Tripp, owner of Tripp Farms, planned to build a gin since the first day he started growing cotton in 2018.
“I knew if it went well and cotton acreage expanded, we would need a gin to reduce the ninety-mile freight distances we currently experience, and that day has come,” Tripp said.
During the 2018 crop year about 3,500 acres of cotton were grown in White County. Yields were good despite a wet fall. Acreage was expanded in 2019 as well as custom harvesting of cotton in surrounding counties. Plans to drastically increase cotton acreage in 2020 placed the need for a gin locally as a top priority for Tripp, he said.
In a five-county radius there are 12,500 acres of cotton planned. With average yields, this equates into 25,000 bales for the gin’s first year of operation. With a capacity of ginning thirty-six bales per hour, the gin has the capability for continued growth.
Mark Stoll, Plant Industry Division Director of the Arkansas Agriculture Department, said the Tripp Gin Company is one of only two gins to come online in recent years.
“We recently certified a gin in Winchester to start up again,” Stoll said. “To have another come on this year is good news for the cotton industry and good news for Arkansas agriculture. We always like to see these types of investments in Arkansas agriculture.”
The new gin is expected to have an economic impact on White County and the surrounding area. The capital investment for land, buildings and equipment, including additional cotton pickers and transportation equipment is an economic boost for associated and related businesses. Peak ginning season will require a minimum staff of twenty employees which includes management, gin operators, lot workers, maintenance personnel and harvesting teams.
“Compared to area farm labor income, you are looking at very good paying jobs for this type of operation. The gin itself is highly technical and will require skilled operators. The salary base alone will be good for White County,” Tripp said, although he did not provide a salary range.
White County Judge Michael Lincoln, expressing his excitement about the new facility, said, “Any new industry in the county is good news, but it is really exciting to see something like the gin being built in Griffithville. It just adds another level of diversity in White County.”
The ginning process separates cotton into lint, seed and cotton seed hulls (commonly referred to as gin trash). Tripp Gin Company can access markets for all three products with lint being used by clothing, textile and many other industries, and the seed as well as the hulls both used by cattle – seed as high protein feed supplement and the hulls as a palatable fiber.
Cotton has not only made a comeback in White County, but acres throughout the state have grown in recent years. Arkansas farmers harvested 610,000 acres, a 130,000 acre jump from 2018, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Average yield was at 1,102 pounds per acre.