The Seam The cotton industry's central online market, The Seam, has begun trading USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) upland and extra-long-staple (ELS) cotton inventories. The arrangement marks the first time the U.S. government has had the ability to market cotton directly to merchants and mills through a neutral third-party Internet-based company.

One of the major reasons the USDA chose The Seam centered on the company's ability to deliver increased visibility for the inventories. James R. Little, executive vice president of CCC, said The Seam community gives the CCC the capability of reaching a broader market.

“This action is the result of productive discussions over the past year between CCC and the cotton industry, and benefits merchants who can now go to a single, market-wide source for cotton purchases,” Little said.

Phillip C. Burnett, president and CEO of The Seam, said the mutually beneficial arrangement between USDA and The Seam saves the agency money through more cost-effective marketing of the CCC cotton, thus aiding the entire industry. The Seam is the most widely used online company for commercial sales in the cotton industry.

“Through our system, we provide access to the vast majority of U.S. buyers, which will greatly enhance the marketing of CCC-owned inventories,” explained Burnett. “Every opportunity to sell more U.S. cotton is a plus for the entire cotton community, especially the growers.”

At the time of the transition to The Seam, CCC's inventory totaled more than 88,000 bales. Most of the inventory is from forfeitures of the 2001-02 crop. Early sales activity indicates strong acceptance by the industry.

“It has long been the position of ACSA that the job of marketing CCC stocks should be in the hands of private enterprise,” explained Robert Weil II, president of the American Cotton Shippers Association. “And The Seam is uniquely qualified to handle the business. Its proven system will reduce costs, so the government gains and the buyers gain. It's a win-win decision by the USDA.”

Ed Hanslik, a cotton merchant with Texas Cotton Marketing in Austin, Texas, agrees that The Seam was an excellent choice by the USDA for the new marketing arrangement.

“The Seam uses the Internet as a tool to bring together growers, merchants, ginners, mills, and coops,” Hanslik said. “Having the CCC stocks on The Seam means our community is now even larger.”

The Seam's Web site is located at: http://www.theseam.com/. Once cotton inventory is posted for sale on this site, purchasers have at least eight hours, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Standard Time, to make a purchase. Transactions, which occur anonymously in a secure electronic environment, are processed within 24 hours. Formerly, CCC cotton inventories were sold through the government-owned Cotton Online Processing System. Sales and inventory data also are provided by CCC on the Farm Service Agency Web site located at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/daco/reports.htm.

The Seam is a neutral Internet-based global marketplace for the buying and selling of cotton.