“It looks like it’s going to be a pretty quick season” is how Keith Maloney sums up the outlook for this year’s cotton classing operations at the USDA/Agricultural Marketing Services facility at Dumas, Ark.

Sharply curtailed cotton acres for the 80 percent of the Mississippi crop and the 40 percent of the Arkansas crop processed at Dumas should make for a short classing season, the office’s director told the joint meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association and the Delta Council’s Ginning and Cotton Quality Improvement Committee.

And because of increased energy and transportation costs, the classing fee will go up this year to $2 per bale (it was $1.85 in 2007). A 5-cent discount for gins and warehouses serving as collection agents will remain in effect.

“We have continued to revise our sample hauling, recordkeeping, and other operations in order to try and cope with higher fuel/transportation costs, energy for running the classing machinery, and other rising expenses,” Maloney said. “We instituted rotating shifts on the weekends in order to minimize overtime.” And as of January 2008, the classing division was combined with the tobacco program in order to achieve additional efficiency.

“Last year, our office classed only 1.7 million bales — the smallest volume since 1998,” he said.

Nationwide, classing offices handled 17.9 million bales of upland cotton and 822,722 bales of Pima, the latter a record for that variety. And quality for the Texas crop was the highest on record.

Mississippi bales classed in 2007 totaled 1,121,657, down from 1,798,767 the previous season. Nearly 57 percent of the crop classed color grade 41, compared to 41.4 percent in 2006; 24.1 percent was color grades 31 and up (48.8 percent in 2006); and 14 percent was light spotted (7.6 percent in 2006).

The average micronaire was 4.45 (4.66 in 2006) and average length was 1.079 (1.064 in 2006). Average strength was 28.63 (28.54 in 2006); average uniformity was 80.67 (80.7 in 2006), and average leaf was 3.93 (3.53 in 2006).

Arkansas bales classed at Dumas last year totaled 583,220, a significant drop from 851,260 in 2006. The crop was 68 percent color 41 (49.9 percent in 2006); 19.4 percent color grades 31 and up (45.8 percent in 2006); 7.5 percent light spotted (2.3 percent in 2006); average micronaire 4.66 (4.61 in 2006); average length 1.088 (1.090 in 2006); average strength 29.19 (29.38 in 2006; average uniformity 81.07 (81.17 in 2006); and average leaf 3.96 (3.54 in 2006).

In Mississippi, 10.5 percent of the bales classed were discounted for micronaire; 16.8 percent for length; 19.1 percent for color; 16.7 percent for uniformity; 3.5 percent for strength; and 17.3 percent for leaf (more than double the 8 percent in 2006).

Arkansas bales discounted were 16.1 percent for micronaire; 8 percent for length; 12.6 percent for color (compared to only 1.9 percent in 2006); 8.5 percent for uniformity; 0.8 percent for strength; and 18.4 percent for leaf (over three times the 6.1 percent in 2006).

e-mail: hbrandon@farmpress.com