The USDA cotton classing fee will be unchanged this year, at $1.85, according to Keith Maloney, acting area director for the Dumas, Ark., classing office.

“We’re now in the process of preparing and testing the accuracy of our HVI equipment for this season,” he said at a northwest Mississippi meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at Clarksdale, Miss.

And he says, there will be more machines in operation for this year’s crop.

“In 2005, we ran 34 HVI machines; this year, we’ll be using 39, so we should be able to hand samples expeditiously.”

Maloney, who is filling the position held by long-time director Larry Creed, who retired in July, says recruiting is under way for the post, as well as other staff positions open at the Dumas office.

A record 23.3 million bales were classed by USDA offices nationally for the 2005 crop, he says. The Dumas office classed 2.5 million of those.

The Mississippi bales classed had 63.2 percent 31 color or higher; 13.8 percent light spotted; average length of 34.98; and average leaf grade of 3.47.

Maloney outlined procedures this season for sample hauling, which the USDA Cotton Program contracts for to transport cotton sample sacks from gins and warehouses to Mid-South classing offices at Dumas, Memphis, and Rayville, La.

“The area director at each office will notify hauling contractors of the date to begin pickup services, when the total volume at all listed points on the route reaches the sufficient number of sacks specified for each route.”

During the early start-up period of the season, before contract hauling begins, classing offices will assist in expediting collection of all cotton sample sacks, and they will do the same when the season begins to wind down.

Classing office field representatives, in the regular course of their contacts with gins and warehouses, will assist in the collection of the sample sacks when contract haulers are not operating, Maloney says.

“But there may be times at the beginning or end of the season, when the volume of samples is small, that field reps cannot get by to pick them up. In that case, we ask that all gins and warehouses mail samples to their local office for classing.”

The Cotton Program “continues to emphasize cost-effective services for cotton growers, in order to control annual user fee charges to our customers,” Maloney says.

e-mail: hbrandon@farmpress.com