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State-of-the-art cotton classing lab, classroom taking shape

Construction on USDA cotton classing complex underway, hopes for fall completion.

Shelley E. Huguley, Editor

April 30, 2021

Farm Press stopped by the construction site of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Lubbock Cotton Classification Complex being built on the Texas Tech University campus in Lubbock, Texas.

Deputy Administrator Darryl Earnest, USDA AMS Cotton and Tobacco Program, gave a progress report along with a projected completion date for the facility. It's been under construction since May of 2020.

"We're probably about 60% to 70% complete," Earnest says. "We've got most of the building 'in the dry,' so to speak. It's really coming along well but we've got a ways to go."

Earnest, who offices in Memphis, Tenn., visits the construction site frequently. He says he's pleased with the progress and the craftsmanship of the 30,000 square feet facility. But if the new lab isn't complete by the time the 2021 cotton crop is ready to be classed, the old Lubbock office is prepared to class for another season.

The new lab is unique in that while USDA owns and will operate the facility, it's the first to be located on a university campus. 

"This is going to be a one-of-a-kind building, not only structurally but functionally. It's going to be state-of-the-art classing office. It's going to have all the newest equipment, all the automation equipment we're working on. The building is probably more soundly built than ever -- it's going to be a tight building for the conditions we have to have," Earnest says. "But more than that, it's a partnership we're doing with Texas Tech, in that we want this building not only to function as a classing office but also as a research and education and employment opportunity."

Earnest says it's going to be a teaching building. "We will do cooperative deals with Tech's departments. It's going to be different from what our typical classing office is. Obviously, we're on Tech campus, so we're going to have a lot of interaction with them but also potentially with other institutions in the area, so it's going to be a unique and very interesting facility."

The new classing office will handle upwards of 50,000 samples per day.

Listen to this video interview to hear more from our conversation with Earnest.

See, Texas Tech, USDA sign historic agreement

*The aerial photograph in the video is provided by USDA, Harvey Madison Photography 

About the Author(s)

Shelley E. Huguley

Editor, Southwest Farm Press

Shelley Huguley has been involved in agriculture for the last 25 years. She began her career in agricultural communications at the Texas Forest Service West Texas Nursery in Lubbock, where she developed and produced the Windbreak Quarterly, a newspaper about windbreak trees and their benefit to wildlife, production agriculture and livestock operations. While with the Forest Service she also served as an information officer and team leader on fires during the 1998 fire season and later produced the Firebrands newsletter that was distributed quarterly throughout Texas to Volunteer Fire Departments. Her most personal involvement in agriculture also came in 1998, when she married the love of her life and cotton farmer Preston Huguley of Olton, Texas. As a farmwife, she knows first-hand the ups and downs of farming, the endless decisions made each season based on “if” it rains, “if” the drought continues, “if” the market holds. She is the bookkeeper for their family farming operation and cherishes moments on the farm such as taking harvest meals to the field or starting a sprinkler in the summer with the whole family lending a hand. Shelley has also freelanced for agricultural companies such as Olton CO-OP Gin, producing the newsletter Cotton Connections while also designing marketing materials to promote the gin. She has published articles in agricultural publications such as Southwest Farm Press while also volunteering her marketing and writing skills to non-profit organizations such as Refuge Services, an equine-assisted therapy group in Lubbock. She and her husband reside in Olton with their three children Breely, Brennon and HalleeKate.

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