With cotton prices lower than a snake's belly, and a potentially large Mid-South crop in the making, there's one small bit of good news: cotton classing fees won't increase this year.

“The fee will remain at $1.35 per bale,” Larry Creed, manager of the Dumas, Ark. USDA Cotton Classing Office told members of the Mississippi Cotton Ginners Association at their summer meeting at Clarksdale, Miss.

For gins or warehouses that use consolidated billing, the fee will remain at $1.30.

“We appear to have a good crop shaping up over most of the Mid-South,” Creed said, “so we're expecting a large volume of samples coming through our facility.”

All cotton samples are now processed with the computerized High Volume Instrument (HVI) system.

An addition to the software last year allows the HVI system to compare a particular sample to those processed immediately before and after, Creed said.

“This allows us to see how a particular sample stacks up against its neighbor on either side. If the sample being tested seems out of line, we retest it. Last year, we ended up retesting only about 2 percent of all bales; this was a significant reduction in reclassifications as a result of using this new program. With a crop as varied as we had last year, we feel this system worked quite well.”

The 2000 crop, Creed said, produced “some of the most exotic shades and staples we'd ever seen coming out of Mississippi.” The color problems, he said, “were mostly geographic,” and when plotted on a map were predominantly in central Delta counties, beginning in Tallahatchie County and moving down toward Yazoo City.

“There are a lot of theories for this, most of them weather-related, but we don't have a definitive answer for it.”

Creed pointed out to the ginner group that module averaging is still available and that statistics continue to show that system of classing “more repeatable than single bales.” It can, he said, sometimes result in an improvement of as much as 10 percent in quality.

“If you haven't tried it, you may want to do so and see how it works. It has really helped provide repeatability to the grading system.”


e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com.