— Bale moisture restoration and moisture measurements, and the fiber damage that can occur over time from excess moisture.

“Studies by Rick Byler, with the USDA Ginning Laboratory at Stoneville, Miss., have concluded that when restoring bale moisture, 7.5 percent wet basis is a reasonable upper limit for bale moisture content, but the 7.5 percent figure should not be considered a target for moisture content.”

Fountain said Byler has also done evaluations of various types of moisture measurement technologies, particularly hand-held meters.

“His analysis was that all meters are inherently inaccurate, with uncalibrated meters having a high error.”

Even after each meter was individually calibrated, the standard error was nearly 1 percent. In addition, a number of factors, such as bale weight, timing after moisture is applied, and ambient temperature, can influence the results of these specific measurements, Byler reported.

“We realize there were issues with an incredibly wet fall in 2009 and with bale moisture in some areas of the Southeast for the 2009 crop,” Fountain says. “These concerns prompted calls for a review of current policy.

“The National Cotton Council has asked the Memphis Cotton Exchange to review their rule pertaining to bale moisture, and it is our understanding that review is under way. The NCGA has also named a committee of ginners who will meet later this year to review moisture restoration and to make recommendations, if necessary.

— Fiber quality issues. The NCGA is “keenly aware of the importance of providing the highest quality fiber possible,” Fountain says, “and we are continuing to work with the USDA Ginning Laboratories and with Cotton Incorporated to insure that quality-related research is conducted.

“Our goal should be to produce the best quality fiber in the world, and in 2009 the NCGA began a dialogue with our foreign mill customers to promote the quality of U.S. cotton.

“We are committed to increasing fiber quality, and our industry is doing everything possible to insure that we are meeting the needs of our foreign customers. NCGA will make several presentations later this year to promoted U.S. cotton quality and to discuss several ongoing projects to improve fiber quality.

“To do this, we rely heavily on the ginning labs for much of the basic research that has brought fiber quality improvements,” Fountain says.

“With every federal agency’s budget being scrutinized, it will be even more important that we support the industry’s three USDA ginning labs. With the focus on quality and ginning efficiencies, it is imperative for our industry to work to keep our ginning labs adequately funded so they can continue their valuable work.

hbrandon@farmpress.com