Hurricane Michael Devastates Georgia Cotton Crop

On the afternoon/night of October 10th and the early hours of October 11th, Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc on southwest, central, and parts of east Georgia and took an exceptional toll on Georgia’s agricultural economy, especially the cotton crop.  Producers are reporting losses anywhere from 25% to a total loss, depending on location in the state, as well as structural and equipment losses and damage.

Official reports of losses will be coming in the coming weeks as University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service personnel collect data.  It is however, without question that losses will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  Losses will extend well beyond the farm, as cotton gins, other agribusinesses, and rural communities will feel the ripples of Hurricane Michael’s aftermath for years to come.

Producers are encouraged to document damage and losses before, during, and after cleanup as well as financial records of cleanup, repair, etc., as assistance and crop insurance may take some time.  Industry leadership has been in touch with officials in Washington and Atlanta describing the effects of the storm.

The Georgia Cotton Commission is a producer-funded organization located in Perry, Georgia. The Commission began in 1965. Georgia cotton producers pay an assessment enabling the Commission to invest in programs of research, promotion, and education on behalf of all cotton producers of Georgia. For more information about this and other topics please call 478-988-4235 or visit us on the web at www.georgiacottoncommission.org.

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USDA Prepared to Respond to Hurricane Michael

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds rural communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses potentially impacted by Hurricane Michael of programs to provide assistance in the wake of disasters. USDA staff in the regional, State and county offices stand ready and eager to help. Additionally, USDA’s Operations Center will function around the clock.

“Hurricane Michael quickly grew into a dangerous storm, and residents within its path should heed the advice from their local authorities to ensure their safety,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “All of USDA’s relevant agencies are ready to assist when natural disasters strike, and we will be there for our farmers and ranchers affected by this storm to get them the help they need.”

USDA has important roles in both response to hurricanes and recovery efforts. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is coordinating the Federal response to support the affected States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service coordinates the response of interagency firefighting personnel, equipment, and supplies mobilized in support of FEMA’s response efforts under the National Response Framework.

USDA recently launched a disaster assistance discovery tool through its new website Farmers.gov that walks producers through five questions to help them identify personalized results of which USDA disaster assistance programs can help them recover after a natural disaster.

In a continuing effort to serve the public, USDA also partnered with FEMA and other disaster-focused organizations and created the Disaster Resource Center website, located at www.usda.gov/topics/disaster. This central source of information utilizes a searchable knowledgebase of disaster-related resources powered by agents with subject matter expertise. The Disaster Resource Center website and web tool now provide an easy access point to find USDA disaster information and assistance.

USDA also encourages residents and small businesses in impact zones to contact USDA offices which meet their individual needs.

Food Safety and Food Assistance

Severe weather forecasts often present the possibility of power outages that could compromise the safety of stored food. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recommends consumers take necessary steps before, during, and after a power outage to reduce food waste and minimize the risk of foodborne illness. FSIS offers tips for keeping frozen and refrigerated food safe and A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes brochure (PDF, 2 MB) that can be downloaded and printed for reference at home. Consumers with questions can contact the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854. Owners of meat and poultry producing businesses who have questions or concerns may contact the FSIS Small Plant Help Desk by phone at 1-877-FSIS-HELP (1-877-374-7435), by email at infosource@fsis.usda.gov, or 24/7 online at: www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulatory-compliance/svsp/sphelpdesk.

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) coordinates with state, local and voluntary organizations to provide food for shelters and other mass feeding sites. Under certain circumstances, states also may request to operate a disaster household distribution program to distribute USDA Foods directly to households in need. As disaster response moves into the recovery phase, FNS may approve a state’s request to implement a Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) when the President declares a major disaster for individual assistance under the Stafford Act in areas affected by a disaster. State agencies also may request a number of disaster-related waivers to help provide temporary assistance to impacted households already receiving SNAP benefits at the time of the disaster, and to provide flexibilities in administering school meals, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and other programs. Resources for disaster feeding partners as well as available FNS disaster nutrition assistance can be found on the FNS Disaster Assistance website.

Crop and Livestock Loss

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers many safety-net programs to help producers recover from eligible losses, including the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, Emergency Forest Restoration Program (PDF, 257 KB) and the Tree Assistance Program. The FSA Emergency Conservation Program provides funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters. Producers located in counties that receive a primary or contiguous disaster designation are eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. Compensation also is available to producers who purchased coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which protects non-insurable crops against natural disasters that result in lower yields, crop losses or prevented planting. USDA encourages farmers and ranchers to contact their local FSA office to learn what documents can help the local office expedite assistance, such as farm records, receipts and pictures of damages or losses.

Producers with coverage through the federal crop insurance program administered by the Risk Management Agency should contact their crop insurance agent. Those who purchased crop insurance will be paid for covered losses. Producers should report crop damage within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days.

Community Recovery Resources

For declared natural disasters that lead to imminent threats to life and property, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can assist local government sponsors with the cost of implementing recovery efforts like debris removal and streambank stabilization to address natural resource concerns and hazards through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. NRCS also can help producers with damaged agricultural lands caused by natural disasters, such as floods.

The NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial assistance to repair and prevent excessive soil erosion that can result from high rainfall events and flooding. Conservation practices supported through EQIP protect the land and aid in recovery, can build the natural resource base, and might help mitigate loss in future events.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture provides support for disaster education through the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). EDEN is a collaborative multi-state effort with land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension Services across the country, using research-based education and resources to improve the delivery of services to citizens affected by disasters. EDEN’s goal is to improve the nation’s ability to mitigate, prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters. EDEN equips county-based Extension educators to share research-based resources in local disaster management and recovery efforts. The EDEN website offers a searchable database of Extension professionals, resources, member universities and disaster agency websites, education materials to help people deal with a wide range of hazards, and food and agricultural defense educational resources.

Many of USDA Rural Development programs can help provide financial relief to rural communities hit by natural disasters by offering low-interest loans to rural community facilities, rural businesses and cooperatives and to rural utilities. More information can be found on the Rural Development website, located at www.rd.usda.gov.

For complete details and eligibility requirements regarding USDA’s disaster assistance programs, contact a local USDA Service Center. More information about USDA disaster assistance, as well as other disaster resources, is available on the USDA Disaster Resource Center website, located at www.usda.gov/topics/disaster.

NCC Welcomes Updated Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – “The National Cotton Council (NCC) is extremely appreciative of the Trump Administration’s work to update and modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement, and our industry welcomes the conclusion of the negotiations,” said NCC Chairman Ron Craft, a Plains, Texas, ginner.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will ensure continued duty-free access for U.S. cotton to Mexico and Canada, with Mexico representing a top five export market for U.S. raw cotton. Both Canada and Mexico are top five export markets for cotton textile and apparel exports.

Craft said, “The NCC is pleased to see the addition of a textile and apparel chapter to the USMCA and inclusion of provisions to:   promote greater use of U.S. origin textile products, incentivize North American textile production, and strengthen customs enforcement in textile and apparel products. We look forward to continuing to work with the Administration in addressing other trade issues to grow exports of U.S. cotton and cotton products and enhance our market share and competitiveness in key markets.”

The Memphis-based NCC’s mission is ensuring the ability of the U.S. cotton industry’s seven segments to compete effectively and profitably in the raw cotton, oilseed and U.S.-manufactured product markets at home and abroad.

NCC: Grateful for Tariff Mitigation Assistance

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The National Cotton Council (NCC) thanks the Trump Administration for its recognition of the impacts of China’s retaliatory tariffs and applauds the Administration’s plan to assist U.S. farmers and ranchers facing trade disruptions from these tariffs. This support comes at a crucial time for the U.S. cotton industry.

While the NCC encourages continued dialogue between the U.S. and China to resolve the trade tensions, the NCC emphasizes the importance of producer support to help partially mitigate the impacts of these tariffs on U.S. cotton and additional funds for export promotion as the industry looks to expand markets for U.S. cotton.

The plan includes three components to assist farmers and ranchers: a Market Facilitation Program, a Food Purchase & Distribution Program, and a Trade Promotion Program.

The Market Facilitation Program will provide $0.06/lb on at least half of a producer’s 2018 cotton production (upland and ELS).  The payment rate on the second half of 2018 production will be determined later and may remain at the same payment level.  Once harvest is complete, production evidence must be provided to the local USDA Farm Service Agency office before payments will be made.  The Market Facilitation payments are subject to the existing $900,000 adjusted gross income means test and a separate $125,000 per person payment limit for the eligible crops.

NCC Chairman Ron Craft, a Plains, Texas, ginner, stated, “The National Cotton Council strongly commends Secretary Perdue and his team at USDA for their ongoing efforts to help U.S. agriculture manage through the current trade disruptions as the Administration seeks to address unfair trade practices and barriers.  The tariff mitigation program announced today will help address a portion of the losses cotton producers are facing in the marketplace.  However, there is continued economic stress on producers in areas of the Cotton Belt that have lost production this year due to severe drought.  In addition, cotton and cottonseed industry participants throughout the marketing channels are also feeling the impacts of the retaliatory tariffs.”

The other commodities eligible for the program include soybeans ($1.65/bu), sorghum ($0.86/bu), wheat ($0.14/bu), corn ($0.01/bu), dairy ($0.12/cwt) and pork ($8/head).

The Memphis-based NCC’s mission is ensuring the ability of the U.S. cotton industry’s seven segments to compete effectively and profitably in the raw cotton, oilseed and U.S.-manufactured product markets at home and abroad.

Cotton/Peanut Research Field Day set for Sept. 5, 2018, in Tifton, Georgia

PERRY/TIFTON, Ga. – The Georgia Cotton Commission, Georgia Peanut Commission and the University of Georgia Extension Cotton and Peanut Teams, will co-sponsor a joint research field day on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018, in Tifton, Georgia.

The field day will start at 8:00 a.m. at the University of Georgia Conference Center (15 RDC Rd., Tifton, Georgia) before relocating to the RDC Pivot and Ponder Farm to view research trials. Those planning to attend need to RSVP by Friday, Aug. 31, to Jeannie Evans at jevans12@uga.edu or 229-386-3006.

The purpose of the tour is to showcase current research, which is funded by the respective commissions, in plot-side presentations by the researchers themselves. The sponsors’ goal is to provide an educational environment for cotton and peanut farmers and give them the opportunity to pose questions directly to the researchers and to express opinions and concerns pertinent to the production of their crops.

Chairmen of the peanut and cotton commissions, Armond Morris and Bart Davis, respectively, agree this event gives farmers the distinct opportunity to interact with the leadership of each commission, other farmers and industry representatives. It is an excellent place for farmers to observe, first-hand, the research programs funded by their checkoff investments.

To view an agenda, visit http://www.georgiacottoncommission.org or http://www.gapeanuts.com, or click here.

FSA-UGA Cotton Program Meetings

**** Please note that morning meetings will be at 9:00 AM instead of the earlier announcement. ***

Georgia USDA-Farm Service Agency is partnering with UGA Extension to conduct grower trainings in September throughout the state to update producers on WHIP, Seed Cotton, TAP Changes, and the Market Facilitation Program (MFP).  Dates, times, and locations are below:

Monday, September 10
Bainbridge
9:00 AM
Cloud Livestock Facility
1300 E. River Rd.
Bainbridge, GA 39817
(229) 248-3033

Perry
2:45 PM
Houston County Extension Office (Old Houston County Courthouse)
801 Main St.
Perry, GA 31069
(478) 987-2028

Tuesday, September 11
Statesboro
9:00 AM
Bulloch County Ag Center
151 Langston Chapel Rd.
Statesboro, GA 30458
(912) 871-6130

Tifton
3:00 PM
UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center
15 RDC Rd.
Tifton, GA 31794
(229) 386-3416

Wednesday, September 12
Cartersville
9:00 AM
Olin Tatum Agricultural Building (Stiles Auditorium)
320 W. Cherokee Ave
Cartersville, GA 30120
(770) 387-5142

Watkinsville
3:00 PM
J. Phil Campbell, Sr. Research & Education Center
1420 Experiment Station Rd.
Watkinsville, GA 30677
(706) 769-3946

For more information, please contact your local UGA Extension Office, USDA Service Center, or the contact numbers associated with each meeting.

Cotton Industry Reaches Out to Farm Bill Conferees

Earlier this week, the Georgia Cotton Commission, and 66 other cotton industry organizations from across the many segments of the industry and representing individuals from every corner of the nation, sent a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees along with the Farm Bill conferees thanking the respective leaders for their work so far through this process, especially for the continuation of seed cotton provisions that were introduced in February.  The letter also outlines industry goals that still have to be negotiated during the conference process.

They include:

  • Completing the Farm Bill by the end of 2018, so producers can go to lending institutions to show market stability for the next five years
  • Increased funding for the Economic Adjustment Assistance Program (EAAP) that is included in the House version of the Farm Bill. EAAP helps support domestic consumption of cotton and increases the competitiveness of American textile manufacturing, while supporting direct and indirect jobs in rural communities, many of which are in Georgia and the southeast.
  • Removing “actively engaged” provisions added at the last minute by the Senate. Adoption of these changes downplays the importance of the contributions made by family members on farms and makes passing multigenerational farms to relatives other than children harder.
  • Ratifying the no cost adjustments to cotton marketing loan programs included in the House Farm Bill.
  • Maintaining adjusted gross income means test at current levels to more appropriately support family farms, especially in times of depressed markets.
  • To give the United States Department of Agriculture the tools to monitor the flow of cotton throughout the manufacturing process and the oversight to make regulatory changes to make that process more efficient and transparent.

The conference process has gotten underway and will start in earnest soon.  Georgia Rep. Austin Scott, David Scott, and Rick Allen are members of the Farm Bill Conference Committee.  Conferees will negotiate differences in the House and Senate versions of the legislation which does significantly more than provide a safety net for farms and farmers; the Farm Bill also provides nutritional assistance for Americans of all backgrounds and supports the underpinnings of rural communities that have been struggling over the past several years.  Producers and other interested people are encouraged to contact their Senators and Representatives in Washington to share their opinion on these issues.