MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Moisture levels in ginned cotton bales shouldn't be more than 7.5 percent, says a new recommendation by the National Cotton Council's Quality Task Force.

National Cotton Council Chairman Bobby Greene, a Courtland, Ala., ginner, is asking for prompt implementation of the bale moisture recommendation with the 2003 crop. "I encourage ginners to implement the Quality Task Force recommendation as quickly as possible with the 2003 crop, and not allow moisture content in baled lint to exceed 7.5 percent," he says.

The task force, which is chaired by Alabama producer Jimmy Sanford, met in Memphis to discuss issues related to U.S. cotton fiber quality.

After hearing reports on the latest moisture studies, the panel adopted the following: "As a precaution against undue risk of fiber degradation and until definitive research data can support a different level of moisture addition at the cotton gin, the National Cotton Council recommends that moisture levels of cotton bales at the gin not exceed a targeted level of approximately 7.5 percent."

This action follows earlier National Cotton Council policy, which instructed the organization to work with industry associations, and research and Extension organizations, including USDA, to: (1) immediately review existing literature to determine current knowledge of appropriate moisture levels in baled lint; (2) communicate that information to the cotton industry; and (3) encourage expedited research to determine optimum moisture levels in baled lint that will preserve fiber qualities and enhance spinning ability.

The task force also heard reports on loan premiums and discounts, fiber qualities of new cotton varieties, sticky cotton detection research status, new ginning technologies and their impact on fiber quality, research on short fiber and neps measurements, and continued efforts at reducing lint contamination.

USDA Agriculture Marketing Service officials provided reports on a number of initiatives, programs and procedures. They reviewed the current protocol for module averaging, in light of the NCC directors' policy adopted in August 2003 that urged USDA to discontinue the new practice of assigning the module average values to outlier bales. Outlier bales are outside USDA's established tolerance of the single bale test for length, strength, length uniformity and micronaire.

USDA told the task force that a decision had been made to return to the previous protocol that requires all module average outliers to retain their original single bale classification.