The 2009 fee for cotton classing services will increase to $2.20 per bale, up from $2 last year, according to David Rowland, assistant area director of the USDA Cotton Classing Office at Dumas, Ark.

Gins and warehouses serving as collection agents will continue to get a 5-cent per bale discount on classing fees, and the special handling fee will increase from 40 cents to 50 cents per bale, he said at the annual joint meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association and the Delta Council’s Cotton Quality Improvement Committee at Stoneville, Miss.

“We’re projecting that the crop we’ll class this year will be the smallest ever for the Dumas office, 725,000 bales,” Rowland said. “Because of the decreased crop size, we’ve reduced the number of HVI classing lines from 33 last year to 24 this year.

“But, we are excited to be getting new model HVI machines, which have the potential for expanded testing in the future, including tests for short fiber content and moisture content.

“One of our concerns with this much smaller crop is maintaining our skilled seasonal workforce of classers and technicians.”

U.S. planted acres for 2009, at 9.05 million, are the lowest since 1983, Rowland said. “Acres in Mississippi and Louisiana are the lowest on record.”

Planted acres increased in Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

In 2008, bales of upland cotton classed in the U.S. totaled 12.1 million, down sharply from 17.9 million in 2007, and down almost half from the 22.6 million in 2005.

Gins operating in the Dumas territory dropped from 113 to 76.

e-mail: hbrandon@farmpress.com