Distinguished Service Award Goes to Rick Byler
Kent Fountain, managing partner of Southeastern Gin and Peanut in Surrency, Ga., and a tireless leader in the National Cotton Ginners Association (NCGA), Southeastern Ginners and National Cotton Council, is the 2016 Horace Hayden National Cotton Ginner of the Year. He received NCGA’s award here today at its 2017 annual meeting.
The Ginner of the Year award is presented annually to a ginner in recognition of: 1) able, efficient and faithful service to the ginning industry and 2) continuing those principles exemplified and practiced by Horace Hayden, a former NCGA executive secretary.
Since coming under Fountain’s direction, Southeastern Gin and Peanut has grown steadily – with recent per year ginning averages of 70,000-plus bales. Fountain also oversees the firm’s other facilities including the recently founded Premium Peanut, LLC, which is a state of the art peanut shelling facility.
Fountain has held multiple industry leadership positions. He has chaired Southeastern Ginner’s Technology Committee and has been the long-time chair of its Budget Committee. He currently serves as that organization’s president after having served as an officer for several years. He also is a past president and chairman of the NCGA and has chaired of all of its committees.
A graduate of the National Cotton Council’s Leadership Program, Fountain currently serves as the Council’s ginner vice president, chairs its Cotton Quality Committee and has served on and continues to serve on numerous other Council committees.
Fountain earned a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics at the University of Georgia and worked with Southern Machine and Tool before becoming involved in the U.S. cotton industry.
Rick Byler, who joined the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Cotton Ginning Research Unit at Stoneville, Miss., in 1990 and has served as the Unit’s research leader since 2007, is the recipient of NCGA’s 2016-17 Charles C. Owen Distinguished Service Award. That award honors those who have provided a career of distinguished service to the U.S. ginning industry.
An Ohio native, Byler received agricultural engineering degrees from Ohio State University (B.S.), Pennsylvania State University (M.S.), and Michigan State University (Ph.D.). He served seven years as an assistant professor of Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute before joining USDA.
Byler holds three patents and has published more than 50 journal articles and some 150 conference proceedings papers, primarily in cotton ginning. His extensive research on cotton moisture measurement, transfer, and quality effects have had a significant impact on the cotton industry. His expertise in instrumentation and controls was crucial to the development of the gin process control system that was commercialized as Intelligin, and he developed a device to accurately measure moisture content in cotton classing samples.
Byler worked with USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to develop algorithms to adjust the measured strength value based on moisture content, greatly reducing conditioning needs. From his studies on the effect of seed cotton moisture content during ginning, he found that higher moisture content resulted in improved length properties.
While much of his research has focused on moisture issues, Byler has conducted other research in the important areas of: improving fiber quality, determining the feasibility of high-speed roller ginning in the Mid-South, examining the effect of maturity on fiber damage during ginning, and searching for new ways to remove plastic contamination at the gin.
During its annual meeting, the NCGA also elected its 2017 officers: president – David Blakemore, Campbell, Mo.; first vice president – Stanley Creelman, Tulare, Calif.; second vice president – Wes Morgan, New London, N.C.; third vice president – Curtis Stewart, Spade, Texas; and chairman – Ron Craft, Plains, Texas. Harrison Ashley of Cordova, Tenn., serves as NCGA’s executive vice president.