This category includes establishments engaged in cotton ginning.
Cotton gins are machines used to separate cotton fibers from cotton seeds, a process that must be done before cotton fibers can be used for textiles. High quality cotton is the combined result of the original characteristics of the fiber and the degree of cleaning and drying it receives. The amount of trash and moisture in the cotton helps to determine the efficiency of the overall ginning process.
In 2002, cotton gins in the United States produced approximately 14.4 million bales of cotton, compared to 17.6 million bales in 2001. The decline was due to poor weather conditions and falling prices, as well as an increase in foreign production. Low labor costs in countries like China and Brazil had allowed global cotton producers to flood the U.S. market with inexpensive cotton. U.S. imports of cotton had grown by 5 million bales between 1997 and 2001, while exports to major markets like China had declined due to the impact of the weak yen on the Asian economy.
In the early 2000s, some establishments operated a single gin, while larger companies operated as many as two dozen gins each. Texas and Missouri are the leading cotton-producing states, with 3.76 million bales and 1.84 million bales, respectively; nearly 40 percent of all cotton grown in the United States is ginned in these two states. California is third in the nation in cotton ginning production, producing 1.62 million bales, or 11.3 percent of total U.S. production, followed by Arkansas with 1.59 million bales, or 11.1 percent. A newcomer to the cotton industry, Kansas built its first cotton gin in 2002.
The two industry leaders as of 2003 were Anderson Clayton Corporation of Fresno, California, which is owned by Australia-based Queensland Cotton Holdings Ltd., and Lyford Gin Association of Lyford, Texas.
Eli Whitney, a schoolteacher from Massachusetts, is generally given credit for inventing the first cotton gin in 1773. Whitney's gin, which he patented in 1774, was actually an improvement on an earlier invention known as the Churka gin. The Churka gin used rollers to loosen the cotton fibers, but it was almost useless on the tight, fuzzy variety of cotton that was grown in the Southern states. Whitney replaced the rollers with revolving wooden spikes that pulled the fibers down narrow slots, through which the seeds could not fall...