The classing fee for the 2010 cotton crop will remain at $2.20 per bale, according to Keith Maloney, area director of the USDA Cotton Classing Office at Dumas, Ark.

Gins and warehouses serving as collection agents will continue to get a 5-cent per bale discount on classing fees and the special handling fee is unchanged at 50 cents per bale, he said at the annual joint meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association and the Delta Council’s Cotton Quality Improvement Committee at Stoneville, Miss.

“If there are no weather setbacks, we’re looking for a rebound in the volume of bales to be classed at our office this year; our projections right now are for 715,000 to 800,000 bales” he says.

That’s a considerable improvement over the 548,849 bales in 2009, the smallest number ever since the consolidation of the Mississippi and Arkansas classing offices, thanks to torrential rains over much of the area during the latter half of the year that took a toll on the crop.

Even so, the 2010 number is a far cry from the 2.5 million bales classed there for the 2005 crop.

Bales classed for the 2009 Arkansas crop totaled 203,182 and for Mississippi, 345,667.

The small crops in recent years have also had an impact on the USDA’s classing operations, Maloney says.

“In ‘normal’ years, we’d have 38 or 39 classing lines in operation; this year, we’ll probably be running only 17. We’ve lost some of our skilled seasonal employees because we just haven’t had enough work.”

The Birmingham, Ala., classing office has closed, he notes, and part of that work has been moved to the Macon, Ga., office and another part to the Memphis office.

New HVI classing equipment was installed at the Dumas office last year, which Maloney says significantly expands the potential for providing a broader range of information about the cotton fiber being processed.

“We’re hoping to add leaf grade analysis in 2011. There is a tremendous amount of research capability in this equipment.”

Quality factors for the 2009 crop were:

Arkansas — Color 31 and up, 1.8 percent; color 41, 45.1 percent; color 51, 24.6 percent; color light spotted, 27 percent; average micronaire, 4.37; average length, 1.104; average strength, 28.49; average uniformity, 80.87; and average leaf, 4.13.

Mississippi — Color 31 and up, 2.7 percent; color 41, 34.1 percent; color 51, 30 percent; color light spotted, 28.7 percent; average micronaire, 4.5; average length, 1.107; average strength, 28.67; average uniformity, 80.54; and average leaf, 4.07.

e-mail: hbrandon@farmpress.com