The Dumas, Ark., USDA Cotton Classing Office classed a whopping 2.6 million bales from last year’s Mississippi and Arkansas crop, with a September record of 741,000 bales.

This year will be a much different story, says Keith Maloney, office director, thanks to the big bite out of cotton acres in favor of corn and soybeans.

“We’re projecting a 33 percent decrease in classing for the 2007 season, or about 1.7 million bales,” he told members of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at their northwest Mississippi regional meeting at Clarksdale.

Maloney, who replaced long-time director Larry Creed, who retired last year, says Mississippi cotton acreage is down 35 percent to 40 percent from last year, while Arkansas acreage has dropped 25 percent to 30 percent.

Despite problems from the larger-than-expected 2006 crop — warehouse storage, weather/drought/irrigation, short staple (mostly dryland cotton or cotton in the Mississippi hills), high micronaire due to variety/defoliation issues, uniformity, low strength readings in dryland cotton, and sampler hauling pickup and delivery problems — the huge volume of samples was handled with the fewest number of permanent staff, Maloney says.

“We utilized seasonal supervisors to accommodate personnel shortages, and provided extensive training for our seasonal and permanent staff.”

At the same time, upgrades were made to the facility’s HVAC system and software; equipment, training, and staff improvements were effected, and changes were made to the sampler hauler service and evaluation process.

The per-bale cotton classing fee for the 2007 season will remain unchanged at $1.85, Maloney says.

Quality analysis of the 851,260-bale 2006 crop in Arkansas showed 45.8 percent classed color 31 and up and 49.9 percent color 41, with 2.3 percent light spotted. Average micronaire was 4.61; average length 35.00; average strength 29.38; and average uniformity 81.17.

Quality averages for the 1,798,767-bale Mississippi crop were 48.8 percent color 31 and up; 41.4 percent color 41; 7.6 percent light spotted; 4.66 micronaire; 34.13 length; 28.54 strength; and 80.70 uniformity.

Leaf grade for the Arkansas crop averaged 3.54, for Mississippi 3.53.

Module averaging, a voluntary program offered to cotton program customers since 1991, will be continued for 2007, Maloney says. There is no charge for the service, which improves the reproducibility of HVI measurements of cotton strength, length, length uniformity, and micronaire.

“The improved reproducibility and accuracy of the module averaging system enhances the credibility of the U.S. cotton classification system,” he says. “It allows all parties to trade U.S. cotton with greater confidence in the quality measurements.”

e-mail: hbrandon@farmpress.com