USDA has notified the National Cotton Council that the agency has approved the Specifications for Cotton Bale Packaging Materials for the 2004 crop. The specifications, revised from 2003, have been published in the Science and Technical area of the NCC's Web site, www.cotton.org.

Through the 2004 specifications, USDA requires bagging manufacturers to discontinue manufacturing strip-coated and randomly-coated woven polyolefin bagging in favor of fully coated bagging. The Joint Cotton Industry Bale Packaging Committee recommended as part of the 2004 specifications that all woven polypropylene and woven polyethylene bagging materials be fully coated starting with the 2004 crop.

This change became effective for all new bagging manufactured after the specifications were approved by USDA and published by the NCC. Gins are allowed to use any strip-coated bagging they may have on hand prior to the start of the 2004 season that was approved for use in 2003, provided the bags were not manufactured after May 11, 2004.

JCIBPC Chairman Lee Tiller said elimination of strip-coated and randomly-coated bagging was done at the urging of domestic mills, which are represented on the JCIBPC, and foreign mills, which are not.

“Faced with these demands, the packaging committee chooses to adopt standards that assure U.S. cotton customers that only packaging materials that protect lint from all contamination sources are used,” the south Texas ginner said. “This is important for helping U.S. cotton maintain its outstanding reputation in the world marketplace.”

Tiller noted that wrapping or tying bales with materials that do not meet JCIBPC specifications can: (1) make cotton bales ineligible for Commodity Credit Corporation loan and other farm program benefits and (2) violate many U.S. cotton trading rules.

Dale Thompson, the NCC's manager of marketing and processing technology, reminded industry members that JCIBPC/USDA-approved specifications are intended for use as manufacturing guidelines, and are designed to improve the U.S. bale's quality, protection and marketability in domestic and foreign markets.