Declines in length and strength of U.S. upland cotton are causing concern within the industry, says Norma McDill, deputy administrator of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service cotton program.

She said also that the agency is working to increase its emphasis on spot market quotations.

USDA classing office results show that the length of the 2000 upland crop was down all across the Cotton Belt, she told members of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at their annual meeting at Memphis.

“The average staple length last season was 34.2. Although there were slight increases in staple length in 1996 and 1997, it dropped significantly in 1998 and has remained short for the past three years. The Mid-South’s average staple length was 34.1 in 2000, a drop from 35.1 in 1995.

“This is a trend that is concerning producers in all areas, and was a topic for discussion at the recent Beltwide Cotton Conferences and the National Cotton Council’s annual meeting.”

McDill said the average strength of upland cotton across the belt has also declined over the past six years, dropping from 29.1 grams per tex in 1995 to 17.6 in 2000. The Mid-South’s strength average in 2000 was 27 grams per tex, a decline from 28.6 in 1995.

In placing greater emphasis on the agency’s spot quotations process, she said, “We’ve been working with the National Cotton Council to review our quotations and how they’re used by the Farm Service Agency for the premiums and discounts for their loan program. We’re talking with them about establishing an industry committee to review the spot quotations program.”

It is hoped, McDill said, that information can be provided on a daily basis for the seven spot markets: Southeast, North Delta, South Delta, East Texas/Oklahoma, West Texas, Desert Southwest, and the San Joaquin Valley.