The 2009 fee for cotton classing services will increase to $2.20 per bale, up from $2.00 last year, according to David Rowland, assistant 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 will increase from 40 cents to 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.

“We’re projecting that the crop we’ll class this year will be the smallest ever for the Dumas office, 725,000 bales,” Rowland said. “Because of the decreased crop size, we’ve reduced the number of HVI classing lines from 33 last year to 24 this year.

“But, we are excited to be getting new model HVI machines, which have the potential for expanded testing in the future, including tests for short fiber content and moisture content.

“One of our concerns with this much smaller crop is maintaining our skilled seasonal workforce of classers and technicians.”

U.S. planted acres for 2009, at 9.05 million, are the lowest since 1983, Rowland said. “Acres in Mississippi and Louisiana are the lowest on record.”

Planted acres increased in Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

In 2008, bales of upland cotton classed in the U.S. totaled 12.1 million, down sharply from 17.9 million in 2007, and down almost half from the 22.6 million in 2005.

Gins operating in the Dumas territory dropped from 113 to 76.

Looking at 2008 crop statistics, of bales classed at the Dumas office, Mississippi was 98 percent color grade 41/32 and higher, and Arkansas was 99 percent, while the Mid-South states as a whole were 94.6 percent.

Average leaf grade was 4.0 for Mississippi and 3.9 for Arkansas and the Mid-South states as a whole.

For Mississippi, the average micronaire was 4.6; for Arkansas, 4.7; for the Mid-South, 4.6; and for the U.S., 4.3.

Average strength for Mississippi bales classed was 29.7; for Arkansas, 29.9; for the Mid-South, 30.2; and for the U.S., 29.6. Fiber strength has been steadily increasing in the U.S. since 2000, when it averaged 27.6; prior to 2000, it had varied from a low of 26.3 in 1991 to 29.1 in 1995.

Average staple in 2008 was 35.9 for Mississippi and 36.0 for Arkansas.

Base quality and higher for the Mid-South states in 2008 was 60 percent, up from 40 percent in 2007, and slightly higher than the 59 percent in 2006. For Arkansas, it was 65 percent; Tennessee, 59 percent, Arkansas/Missouri, 66 percent; and Mississippi/Louisiana, 49 percent.

e-mail: hbrandon@farmpress.com