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Bandless Bales May Be Too Risky

By Adam Rekerdres

From Cotton Grower Magazine – March 2015

 

As another Joint Bale Packaging Committee meeting has come and gone, I am reminded of a question my father always asks when our cotton specialized insurance agency is considering the purchase of new technology; “Are we going to be on the leading edge, or the bleeding edge?”

The “leading edge” is a technology that has all the bugs worked out and clearly gives you an advantage over the competition.

“Bleeding edge” technology is that which is untested, unproven and is often dangerous to use.

Recently I saw some bleeding edge cotton technology when I was walking through a client warehouse in Memphis.

Sitting next to a stack of cotton bales was a horrible mound of loose cotton fiber and ripped plastic.

The warehouse manager moaned and informed me that this was a “bandless bale” that had simply busted open earlier that morning.

He said that the bandless bale was an experimental bale bag, and that going forward he was segregating all of them to a distant corner of the warehouse. He was too afraid that one would suddenly burst open and tip over his three bale high stack of cotton, potentially falling on an unsuspecting employee.

As I researched more, I discovered that a stack of bales falling over isn’t the only worry.

The majority of cotton insurance policies – whose DNA go back to the venerable Cotton Fire & Marine Underwriters – have a warranty exclusion for reconditioning cotton in the warehouse.

Reconditioning is defined in these insurance policies as a bale that has been opened by more than two bale straps.  A warranty exclusion means that if this reconditioning is happening in the warehouse, there is a strong potential that a cotton claim, such as a fire, will not be paid.

God help the poor insurance broker who has to explain the experimental bandless bale to a cotton underwriter after a fire.

But cotton people know that there is wisdom in that old policy form. Those cotton underwriters knew, from bad experience, that loose cotton fiber is like gasoline on the warehouse floor.

As this cotton insurance ad from the 1950s shows, there has always been a need to care for the bale.

Not only does a well-cared-for bale present a better risk in the warehouse, but it also is a key feature that makes U.S. cotton competitive to other growths.

There is no country in the world that can match the U.S. cotton bale, and our bale packaging is a “leading edge” feature.

When well considered, our bale packaging is not a simple thing. It must be able to take samples for certification, sometimes more than once. It must be durable enough for constant handling and overseas shipping. It must be reconditionable. It must be breathable.

These are just some of the features our industry, with the Joint Cotton Industry Bale Packaging Committee, has tackled over the years.

Granted, as an industry we should constantly push to decrease the cost of our bales and improve the product in general. But we have to remember to care for our cotton bales. We can’t let “bleeding edge” technology take the place of our “leading edge” product – it’s your duty!

 

Adam Rekerdres is with Rekerdres & Sons Insurance Agency, Inc.

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