With a lot of U.S. cotton being shipped overseas, he says, “Our main goal is making sure we do everything we can to maintain the highest quality standards for Mid-South and U.S. cotton,” he says. “Our agency’s administration is being proactive in trying to promote module averaging and encourage farmers to consider using this method. We’ve found module averaging useful in helping to reduce complaints from overseas buyers.”

Module averaging, first offered in 1991, as a means of reducing variability associated with cotton strength, was expanded in 1992 to include length, strength, length uniformity, and micronaire. The system is based on the concept that all cotton within a module is well-blended by the time it is baled and sampled.  USDA studies have shown the variability within a module is not significantly different than the variability within a bale.

Results are more accurate than a single bale test, stand up to re-testing upon delivery, hold up against scrutiny and challenge, provide added confidence to the spinner in laydowns, and are more reliable months later.

Studies each year by the cotton program have shown overall positive economic results for module averaging, with possible added benefits to storing, staging, and shipping of bales.

History has proven that module averaging is a more accurate means for assigning classing data, the USDA says, and is supported statistically through 20 years of classing data, plus value setting studies on calibration cotton.

Module averaging, the agency says, provides customers with improved accuracy in quality measurements, with results that are more reproducible and repeatable, statistically reliable, and more consistent for all data users.

USDA Cotton Classing Offices are moving toward more automation of processes,” Maloney says. “We’re steadily upgrading our equipment and facilities. We hope by the 2014 crop we’ll have a lot of this new equipment up and running. We want to be on the leading edge of technology.

“This past year, we opened a new facility at Lamesa, Texas, and we’re looking at upgrades for the Lubbock facility as the next project. One of the challenges in planning what we can do is trying to determine what the volume of the cotton crop will be in the coming years.

In planning for classing the 2013 crop at the Dumas office, Malone says, “We’re hearing that cotton acreage could decline from 25 percent to 40 percent. We’ll be watching the grower intentions surveys, and we’ll contacting growers and ginners to try and get a handle on what the crop size will be so we can continue provide the best service possible at the lowest cost possible.”