AMS maintains the National Database (NDB) in Memphis, TN. It allows for owner access to cotton classification data on a system called the Cotton Electronic Recording System (CERS). The CERS disseminates over 50 million records annually and allows owners or authorized agents of owners to retrieve classing data from the current crop and/or the previous four crops.
How the National Database Works
The NDB is a batch processing system. Before connecting to the system, customers must create a request file on their computer containing user logon information and ranges of bale numbers they are requesting. The request file is uploaded and processed automatically upon a successful connection. A data file is then returned to the customer’s computer. The data file is a text file with fixed length fields that can be easily imported or parsed by most programs. Software to process the retrieved records is not provided by the C&T. The software can be obtained from other sources or developed by the customer. If needed, C&T provides a simple print program that can be used to print the retrieved records.
What Data is Available?
All Form 1 Classing Office data is available from the NDB. The NDB stores data by gin code and gin bale number (e.g. Permanent Bale Identifier or PBI) for the current crop year and previous four crop years. Two types of requests can be made from the NDB. The first request is for data only and the second request is for a Form R (see below).
The official cotton quality measurements include the official color grade, extraneous matter, remarks, leaf grade, length, strength, micronaire, length uniformity, color (instrument color grade, quadrant, Rd and +b) and trash on an individual bale basis. A more detailed description of the quality measurements can be found in the publication, “Understanding the Data (pdf).”
The data file contains the requested quality information for bale record(s) found. The data file is a text file with fixed length fields that can be easily imported or parsed by most programs. Detailed file layouts are included with the software for the request file and the returned data file. Since the data file is overlaid each time a connection is made, customers must process data before connecting to the NDB again. Data not processed will be lost (overlaid) at the time of the next download. The cost of providing data is $0.05 per record found.
Form R (Printed Report)
Customers may also obtain a certified classification document (Form R) from the National Database in addition to telecommunications. Customers select which quality factors are printed on each Form R by setting the appropriate flag in the request file. A data file is returned immediately while the Form R reports are mailed out daily. The cost of the Form R includes shipping the report by U. S. mail. If overnight service is requested, the customer must supply their FEDEX account number to cover shipping charges. The cost of providing the Form R is $0.15 per bale, with a minimum fee of $5.00 per page. A full page contains 50 records ($7.50).
Establishing a National Database User Account
To establish an account on the NDB, customers must complete the National Database Application form (pdf) and send the completed form to the Cotton Program’s IT Staff by fax, mail or email. If the Windows version of the software is requested, the $40.00 license fee must be included with the application. Customers may also complete the National Database Credit Card Application form (pdf) form if they want to pay for software and/or usage fees by credit card.
Upon receipt of the completed application, an ID number and password will be assigned to the account. Installation Instructions, file formats, NDB User Manual and software (Windows only) will be sent after the account is established. If the Internet version is selected, a website address will be supplied for the download of the software.
Note: All active accounts are billed monthly. If any data is downloaded during the month, the account is subject to a $5.00 minimum charge.